This week we’re supposed to write about what we can do for potential employers as digital marketers, the spirit behind which obviously being why we should be hired on these grounds. The thing is, the skills we learned in this class I want to know as means to ends, but I don’t necessarily want to be hired for them in themselves. This is because I don’t like cut-and-pasting, crunching numbers, or getting lists of menial tasks to finish before the weekend… though dues are dues and I don’t expect to go from underground to the moon in one stroke. In this class we’ve learned a generally accepted method of attracting [customers], helping them find, remember, and talk about something, and how to measure the effectiveness of different executions of these concepts. I’m familiar with the topics enough to know that I’ve learned valuable things, but I want to execute them as part of a bigger plan.
This is because (in the loosest of definitions, of course) I like to think of myself as more of a visionary. You never have to tell me to think outside the box because I don’t know where the box is or how you think in one. I think where most of my teachers and peers go wrong is they try to formulate marketing, but it isn’t about following a set of rules, getting some position, or even keeping up on things. It’s about staying ahead of the curve – always defining new methods that the rest of the industry reads about. Marketing is about figuring out how people think and leveraging aspects of their tendencies that they wouldn’t change even when made aware of them (like how even after knowing they’re worthless, people still want diamonds.)
And I think this is where the music industry has gone wrong as well. Most of it has been consolidated into a few major players that have gotten comfortable with the way they conduct business and can’t imagine other ways of doing things to the point that new ideas seem dreamy or in need of too much restructuring. It’s the most cliché scenario in the book and I find that there are only 2 main possible outcomes; either one company will play to the changing tides and swallow the others, forming a virtual monopoly, or smaller and more nimble firms will beat them all at games they didn’t know they should be playing. And the games ARE changing. The market used to need help finding good music, but now it needs help sifting through the good music already out there and experiencing it to a greater degree. Labels are staying afloat with their ability to promote and control better than anyone, but as information exchange gains momentum and fewer people listen to the radio on commutes, this tactic will become increasingly difficult (and costly) to maintain.
And this is why I think people should want me on their team. I understand that [marketing] isn’t about the learning of facts (academia), it’s about the training of the mind to think. I think real marketers get good through a life of studying people and wanting to know what makes them tick. It comes from wondering why people say things instead of what they say, why certain people laugh certain ways when telling certain jokes to certain people, why Latinos, white people, black people, poor people, rich people, young people, old people, desperate people, confident people, disheveled people, teachers, cops, politicians, and every other whatever-a-graphic that you could construct share the tendencies that they do… and not just the qualities that come from being in the segment itself, but also vice-versa.
Anyone can understand the concepts I’m talking about in the same way that anyone can shoot a hoop; this is nothing special. But my point is that not everyone is born, for whatever reason, foolishly obsessed with their sport to attack it voraciously enough to become Michael Jordan, Phelps, or Tyson. Figuring out how people think and why is my sport. People can go to basketball camp or get certain grades at school all they like, but if their heart’s not in it, every day at work will be the inconvenient thing between their bed and a can of beer, and they will never be Michael anything. My value is in the fact that I’ll be thinking about how to do my job better even when I’m not being paid to do it… and not because of work ethic, but because it’s just how I am. Whether a passion is a good thing or a bad thing depends on how it’s used, but the first step is to use it.