Everyone is a Marketer Now. So, is Everyone a Liar?

Everyone lies The other day a man asked me what I do for a living and when I told him I work in advertising he told me his brother “lies for a living” too. After more than a decade in the business, comments like that don’t even phase me. Until you’re on the inside of any system, you reduce it to flat stereotypes. That’s human nature.

Since the advent of advertising, three things have contributed to the continuation of that stereotype:

The flow of information between brands and consumers was blocked for decades, causing consumers to feel watched and manipulated even while brands felt frustrated that, despite their best attempts to learn and please their customers, they couldn’t quite get a read on what they really wanted.

Consumers have played the role of passive receivers of brand messaging, a position that, in any relationship, tends to make people suspicious and highly critical.

Consumers have been lied to by brands. It’s true. Some people in advertising compromise the institution. But if you’ve ever talked to a teacher who’s passed a failing student because they’re told they have to, you’ll quickly realize that even our most respected professions contain compromise.

Enter social media. In the beginning, consumers began using platforms to exercise the ability to finally publicly communicate to and about their strong feelings toward brands, whether it was love or hate. We started seeing #wins and #fails loudly proclaimed, and even more revolutionary, we saw brands listening and responding back.

Next, we began to see people empowering their voices collectively and moving into the role of watchdogs. The powerful Leroy Stick taking down BP is just one example of that. Campbell Ewald’s Group Director of Social Media, Dave Linabury, noted that "Orwell got one thing wrong. Sure we're being watched, but he never predicted we'd be watching back."

And though we’ve spent a lot of time as ad professionals talking about how these platforms have opened up communication between people and brands, we haven’t spent a lot of time talking about another coinciding phenomenon that I find most interesting. Yes, consumers have been given the power to watch back. But with that power comes the experience of having to make the choices you once felt comfortable openly criticizing.

Aunt Edna's Cat As peoples’ use of social media becomes more sophisticated and ubiquitous, even your Aunt Edna who’s never heard of this thing called Personal Branding, is gaining an understanding of the choices that must be made in telling her story in media. Every time she moves the laundry basket out of the frame before she snaps a picture of her cat and posts it for her friends, she is quietly and cognitively transitioning from consumer to brand. Every time she adjusts what she does and doesn’t post according to what gets the most Likes, she becomes a marketer of her life. And now Aunt Edna has stood in the marketer's shoes, whether she’s conscious of it or not.

She has begun to understand the shades of gray that lie between total transparency and the fifty-year old man in his parents’ basement posing as a shirtless Mark Wahlberg. A selected facet of the truth no longer feels like a lie. One person's putting your best foot forward is another's misrepresentation.

Self-construction is certainly not new, nor is it unique to social media. Whether you’ve cleaned your house before company comes or exaggerated your experience in an interview, people have run the gamut of posturing since the beginning of time. Look at Eve’s fig leaf. But now that people are having to make more conscious decisions to show the world their ideal version of themselves, and more importantly, publishing them, they are no longer on the outside of the branding system looking in. One click at a time, they are internalizing the system and its myriad of nuances, and as a result, are beginning to understand what it means to craft a brand story.

I’d love to hear some of the choices you see people making when telling their stories online.

Jen Wright Jen Wright, Yaffe Social Media Strategist & Professional Liar


Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Alan Stamm says:

    Personal branding choices flow through our Facebook feeds with a steady stream of daily cues about how friends and acquaintances see themselves . . . or would like to be seen.
    Profile photos brand us as a parent, a whimsical scamp, a traveler, a pet owner, a nostalgia buff or half of a squeezed-together couple.
    Posts and links reinforce political beliefs, social consciousness, reading preferences, compassion, generosity, tastes in humor and sometimes tastelessness.
    Detroit News music writer Susan Whitall regularly shares YouTube performance links inspired by an artist in the news, by the weather, by the time of year or by a mood of the day.
    Also distinctive are inspiring morning quotes or aphorisms shared by marketing communicator Ari B. Adler . . . and public affairs observations by writers Rick Haglund and Bill Shea.
    Actually, this name-dropping comment right here is a way to tell my story, to solidify my Personal Brand. Thanks for asking, Jen!

  • Evelyn says:

    Great read. I guess the difference between the liar and the Aunt Edna type of marketers lies in consciousness. Not that I am saying all marketers should try to fake to be natural, I have been constantly trying to seek a balance between representing the brand I manage and at the same time being the person my friends/acquaintance are familiar with. But the whole industry still operates, most of the time, in a old-fashioned way. What do you think we can do to keep that balance, Jen?

  • Alan,
    I loved the “half of a squeezed-together couple.” And I agree that absolutely everything posted is a statement of brand story. Sometimes it’s an accurate statement and sometimes it’s not. What’s so cool is that people are now more aware of their fish stories. It’s one thing to move your hands a little further apart when showing the size to your friends. It’s another thing to put the story in print and publish it.
    I’m sure a lot of people drop Adler’s name, but not many of them would have the sense of humor or graciousness to call themselves out on a name-dropping session! So I have to say that your final comment speaks loudest about your brand.
    I don’t think there’s anything wrong or dishonest about using different voices or personas in real life, on Facebook or when representing a client. After all, don’t we all actually have several different voices?
    I think deceit is located in intent. If you take on a voice you believe to be dishonest or harmful, that’s bad. I go with my gut, and thankfully I have an awesome Creative Director and agency that supports our gut feelings.
    If a parent doesn’t mention his or her family on Facebook out of a desire to respect their privacy and protect them, I respect that. But if a parent hides their family so they can flirt, I find that deceitful.
    I think the fact that we have to take it case-by-case makes it tough but also gives all of us a good opportunity to decide every day, with every update, what kind of person we are.
    Thanks so much for reading and for your thoughtful comments.

  • taobao china says:

    beautiful shot. was it taken with your new camera?

  • Mike McClure says:

    No, it is not one we took. I do really like it though.

  • This post is awesome,ecpecting the newest!!!LIKE IT LIKE IT LIKE IT!!!

  • I think the fact that we have to take it case-by-case makes it tough but also gives all of us a good opportunity to decide every day, with every update, what kind of person we are.

  • It’s your name on the cover, not theirs. As an artist, you must have integrity. Readers can feel it when an author is being insincere in their work, and they frequently lose faith in the author because of it…..good .

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