Thoughts On “Authentic Marketing” | Steve's Quest: The Animated Musical Web Series

Thoughts On “Authentic Marketing”

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I’ve read a bunch of discussions on blogs recently about how to be “authentic” in marketing your goods and services—and, in some cases, whether authentic marketing is even possible—and I have some thoughts to contribute.  I’ll offer a simple, but powerful, question to ask when you’re working on selling your stuff to guide you toward feeling more aligned with yourself as you do it.

My sense is that, when we say we want to do “authentic marketing,” we mean more than simply not lying.  Of course we don’t want to claim to have experience we actually lack, or that our products do things they don’t really do, but that’s not enough by itself.  Ultimately, I think, what we want is to feel refreshed and uplifted when we’re promoting ourselves, rather than drained and frustrated.  Ideally, we’d enjoy promoting our work as much as we enjoy the work itself.

In my experience, whether we get this feeling depends on how we see ourselves.  If we perceive ourselves as adequate and complete, exactly as we are, and our marketing efforts are driven by that belief, we’re likely to feel fulfilled.  But if we think of ourselves as not good enough, and we try to compensate for or conceal our inadequacy with our self-promotion, we’ll probably suffer.

Completeness Versus Compensation

What do I mean when I talk about “compensating” in our self-promotion?  I’ll illustrate with three basic ways I’ve noticed people trying to cover up some perceived problem with themselves in the marketing context:

1.  “I’m Too Small.” If we see ourselves as inferior, we may try to make up for it by exaggerating our abilities or accomplishments.  Maybe, for example, we’ll portray the product we’re selling as the answer to every problem a person could possibly experience.  Or, we’ll use tons of bold and underlined text in our sales copy (as in SUPER FAST CASH! $$$!!!), because we’re worried that otherwise no one will notice us or take us seriously.

2.  “I’m Too Big.” If we see ourselves as too loud or taking up too much space, we’ll likely compensate by downplaying or omitting what we have to offer.  Maybe we’ll make a lot of self-deprecating jokes to make sure we don’t come off as arrogant or bragging.  Or maybe we’ll just avoid marketing altogether, because the very idea of “talking ourselves up” doesn’t mesh with our self-image as a modest or humble person.

3.  “I’m Bad.” Perhaps we see ourselves as fundamentally “evil” or dishonest, and we make up for this by trying to appear trustworthy and upstanding.  Maybe, for instance, we begin our sales copy with “I’m not going to lie to you,” or talk a lot about our personal lives to make sure others know we’re “more than just a faceless salesperson.”  (Duff M. writes insightfully about this kind of compensation in his piece on “presenting an authentic image.”)

Getting Conscious of Your Compensation

Naturally, when we’re doing marketing—or anything else—from a place of feeling wrong or deficient, we tend to find it painful and frustrating.  This is why I think it’s important to become aware of the ways we see ourselves as inadequate, and the places where we could stand to be more accepting and compassionate toward ourselves.

So, if you find yourself feeling drained, irritated or nauseated by the self-promotion you’re doing, I invite you to ask:  “am I trying to make up for some problem with myself right now?”  In other words, are you trying to prove that you’re capable, modest, or honest, or perhaps something else?  If so, why is proving that important to you?  What’s going to happen to you if you don’t prove it?

This can be an uncomfortable inquiry, because it may expose areas where you aren’t fully okay with yourself.  But getting conscious of those places, I think, is an important first step toward accepting yourself more fully.  And when you let go of trying to compensate for or conceal some problem with yourself, marketing can become easier and more enjoyable.

(You can read Part Two of this series here.)

12 thoughts on
Thoughts On “Authentic Marketing”

  1. Davina

    Hi Chris. I really enjoyed this. There is a lot to STOP and think about. I think people get so busy and caught up in self-promotion there is a disconnect between themselves and what they are promoting. Especially with service-orientated businesses. We can tend to try to put ourselves into the package that we think we should be in.

  2. Jannie Funster

    Okay, are you reading my mind or what?

    Was unaware of some of the underlying emotions and fears of self-promotion, such as not being fully okay with yourself. We are whole beings, aren’t we? I believe the Germans named it gestalt? It’s all tied to raising consciousness and great to be aware of! Thanks.

  3. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Davina — yes, I think that’s a good observation, that people (me included) can get wrapped up in how we’re “supposed” to do marketing — which may really be a way of making up for a sense that it won’t be good enough if we just talk informally about our services.

  4. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Jannie — yeah, in marketing and elsewhere we can definitely get lost in getting all the “tips and tricks” right without looking at the bigger picture of why we’re using them and what we think might happen if we didn’t. I took a look at this myself when I was doing my earlier post about my book — the original version had a lot of bold text and bullet-point lists — and I scrapped all that and said okay, I’m just going to write a blog post about what it means to me, and I’m much happier with that.

  5. Ian | Quantum Learning

    Chris.

    This is so much more than marketing! It strikes me as being equally relevant to the face we show to the world as a whole – the image we want to give as individuals not only as businesses. And I think you are so right that we want to be energised by this not drained.

    I’ve not considered any of this before so this is a very useful and profound article.

  6. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Thanks Ian — yes, I think that’s true — it’s useful in every area of our lives to develop awareness around where we’re compensating for some supposed problem with ourselves.

  7. Robin

    Hi Chris – to me this applies to blog commenting also, because that is how I promote my blog. I do actually worry that I am not being authentic now and then – usually it’s when a blogger keeps doing posts I don’t particularly resonate with, and I really want to leave a comment for some particular reason (this isn’t you – heh). Interestingly, I cope with this by looking at how I feel about myself.

    Cheers – Robin (I did leave a comment on this post before, but it didn’t take for some reason)

  8. Stacey Shipman

    When I first started my business self promotion was something I absolutely could NOT do. And to your point it was because of my own fears and lack of confidence. I’ve worked through it, and have found a way to express what I do in a fun, exciting and passionate way. And of course there is a fine line between bragging, arrogance and straight up confidence.

    I decided to stop listening to all the “experts” and go with what works for me!

  9. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Robin — it sounds like you use checking in and just noticing how you intuitively feel as a guide to whether you’re being true to yourself. I think this is the most reliable measurement in the end, as much as many of us would like to be able to logically prove that we’re being true to ourselves.

  10. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Stacey — I know what you mean — there’s so much marketing advice out there, but only we can determine what’s true for us by checking in with how we feel. And interestingly, when we aren’t trying to create some image of confidence or meekness or even of “authenticity” I think that’s when others start responding.

  11. Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord

    This is interesting, and something I think about from time to time. Reading Stacey’s comment reminded me of my own struggles. I have a hard time promoting myself. Why? Not sure. Gut reaction says it’s because I don’t think I’m worth it. I haven’t done enough to promote. I’m not good enough… Yikes! Better yet: people won’t care. Really? Do I really think that? I care about other people, and truly belief that I’m only ever projecting my thoughts onto the world around me, creating a sense of reality in this ultimate illusion we’re all living. Therefore if I care about others, others will care about me!
    Yet the fear remains.
    Man, it’s both fascinating and frustrating to be a cognizant human being! Thanks for writing this, Chris, and getting me to think on it some more.

  12. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Megan — thanks for your share. I can definitely relate to the sense of “not having done enough.” I wonder if that’s related to the feeling you described of others not caring, in that you think you must keep trying to get “them” to notice you and care about you, but nothing you do seems to be enough. And the result is either resistance to working or grim determination. I wonder how that lands with you.

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