img courtesy Hbregazzi on sxc.

Marketers cause unhappiness.

Really, when you strip it down to bare essentials, that’s our job: to make consumers unhappy with what they currently have, so they’ll buy what we’re selling.

I don’t like this much. I never have.

(BTW, this is Kat writing.  Invariably, people assume it’s Jason, being that it’s his blog—anyway, moving on…) While my career has been what could charitably be called “eclectic,” marketing—more specifically writing marketing copy—has been a big chunk of what I do for nearly 20 years now. My first job out of high school involved writing radio copy at a 250-watt radio station at age 18, and I’ll be 36 this year.

Back then, I was writing spots for toilet repair kits. Frankly, if your toilet isn’t flushing properly, you’re probably already dissatisfied. In my mind, I was just pointing you in the direction of relief from the aggravation. Ah, the innocence of youth. I’ve since learned a lot more about advertising, psychology, and worked on honing my writing into a razor-sharp scalpel capable of separating people from their disposable income.

As I get older, a business model based on making people dissatisfied and discontent seems less and less appealing.

For some people, the moral element of their work life isn’t really a consideration (cough**Don Draper**cough). I am not one of those people.

img courtesy woodsy on sxc

When people ask me why I want to work in social media, it can be hard to narrow it down. I love the authenticity, imperfection, and visceral honesty that it allows, even encourages. But I think that if I have to give a singular, most-important reason, it’s that in social media, I see the potential for marketing (or at least one channel of it) to evolve past making people unhappy, sowing seeds of discontentment, and being a massive envy-generating machine.

Sustainability is a big hot topic these days. A way of life that is fundamentally built on envy, acquisition, planned obsolescence, and pushing consumers to “need” more stuff to be happy is not sustainable in any sense of the word. I’m not naïve enough to believe that traditional, envy-driven marketing and advertising is going away anytime soon.  But I’m excited about the new approach that social media makes possible. Really, it’s a set of old approaches that have been made more efficient, scalable and powerful. But that’s probably another post.

Social media offers a way to build your business by making people happier, rather than the other way ‘round.

  • Social media allows you to treat your customers as individual people whose problems and complaints merit at least a vaguely human response, if not a resolution.
  • It allows you to speak honestly and imperfectly to people, instead of treating them like lab rats whose responses to your stimuli have been predicted, tracked, and already reported on the balance sheet.
  • It allows you to hear their delight in your product and service more clearly, and it allows them to share that delight with their family and friends in a (mostly) non-Big Brother-y way.
  • It allows you to tell the story of your company without it becoming “the Hollywood adaptation” where the soul has been sucked out in pursuit of demographically-targeted, homogenized perfection.

People who feel like they’ve been heard are happier than people who don’t. The guy who can share stuff he likes without getting a takedown notice from someone’s legal department is happier than the guy who was broadcasting someone else’s advertising for free, because he liked the product and thought the ads were entertaining, and was told via certified mail to stop. People who feel like they have some power to influence the businesses they choose to work with feel like they have some stake in and some level of stewardship for that company.

Lab rats don’t have the power to do much beyond gnaw holes in the maze.

The big irony is that here in the web 2.0/social media fishbowl, the effect of social media isn’t the same as it can be for the average person. That whole “bigger, shinier, faster” fixation I was condemning a few paragraphs ago? Alive and well in the fishbowl, isn’t it? More followers. More influence. Cooler tools. More power!

Heck, one can even be reduced to pandering for a set of awesome steak knives. It’s easy to lose your head.

imgs courtesy Hbregazzi and Woodsy on sxc.

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About Kat French

Kat French

Kat French is the Digital Operations Manager at CafePress. An exceptional writer both on the web and in other genres, Kat combines creativity with an agile, get-it-done attitude across a broad range of experience in community management, SEO/PPC, social media strategy and program management. She has worked with national brands like Maker's Mark, Daytona Beach Tourism, Optima Batteries and more.

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://kemeny.cl Kemeny

    its amazing how social media has lead to new ideas on marketing and advertisement. now we can allow the consumer tell us whats best in our industry… and even better what they really dislike….buuuut, this is exactly what most biz are not ready to handle..

    Is bad publicity is better than no publicity at all??

  • http://kemeny.cl Kemeny

    its amazing how social media has lead to new ideas on marketing and advertisement. now we can allow the consumer tell us whats best in our industry… and even better what they really dislike….buuuut, this is exactly what most biz are not ready to handle..

    Is bad publicity is better than no publicity at all??

  • KatFrench

    Kemeny – Rather than thinking of it in terms of “is bad publicity better than no publicity?” what about thinking of it in terms of “authentic, honest communication is better than game-playing?”

    To a certain extent, companies have gotten away with service and quality issues because they could legitimately make the case that they had no way to reliably know what the customer experience was.

    And I agree, most companies are still not ready for that level of “naked conversation” any more than they were ready for other technological and sociological changes that have revolutionized business over the centuries. But those changes aren't going to wait for companies to get ready. And the companies that ARE ready (or readier at any rate) are going to have the advantage for a while.

  • KatFrench

    Kemeny – Rather than thinking of it in terms of “is bad publicity better than no publicity?” what about thinking of it in terms of “authentic, honest communication is better than game-playing?”

    To a certain extent, companies have gotten away with service and quality issues because they could legitimately make the case that they had no way to reliably know what the customer experience was.

    And I agree, most companies are still not ready for that level of “naked conversation” any more than they were ready for other technological and sociological changes that have revolutionized business over the centuries. But those changes aren't going to wait for companies to get ready. And the companies that ARE ready (or readier at any rate) are going to have the advantage for a while.

  • http://kemeny.cl Kemeny

    its amazing how social media has lead to new ideas on marketing and advertisement. now we can allow the consumer tell us whats best in our industry… and even better what they really dislike….buuuut, this is exactly what most biz are not ready to handle..

    Is bad publicity is better than no publicity at all??

  • http://www.internet-bard.com KatFrench

    Kemeny – Rather than thinking of it in terms of “is bad publicity better than no publicity?” what about thinking of it in terms of “authentic, honest communication is better than game-playing?”

    To a certain extent, companies have gotten away with service and quality issues because they could legitimately make the case that they had no way to reliably know what the customer experience was.

    And I agree, most companies are still not ready for that level of “naked conversation” any more than they were ready for other technological and sociological changes that have revolutionized business over the centuries. But those changes aren't going to wait for companies to get ready. And the companies that ARE ready (or readier at any rate) are going to have the advantage for a while.

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