Practicing what you preach while preaching is totally possible, and to do that, you just gotta do some things yourself. This is something I absorbed from The Iconist by Jamie Mustard and a Youtube video about deadmau5 by Alex Berman.
So, first, the book. The Iconist by Jamie Mustard. This is a nonfiction book about… I guess it could be categorized as marketing, but I think it’s very useful for anything in life, including but not limited to various forms of art and relationships.
I will read you part of the blurb.
With the rise of digital media and advertising, a constant barrage of information makes it nearly impossible to be seen and heard. In The Iconist, branding and design strategist Jamie Mustard shows you how individuals, organizations, and brands can break through the noise.
I listened to this in audiobook format, and wow, what a meta way to put his writing out there. Mr. Jamie Mustard truly practiced what he preached, while preaching, by doing some things himself, and it’s because one of the things he emphasizes is authenticity.
In that spirit, the entire book was read by Mr. Mustard himself. I loved this. These days, when it’s a nonfiction book, I almost expect the author to read the book. This is especially the case with books that are in marketing, or otherwise involve a lot more personal opinion rather than facts.
For example, I understand if a biologist doesn’t want to read their seven-hundred-page book on the gene mutations in lung cancer, because the topic is science. The very foundation of science is that anybody should be able to approach the same experiment and get the same result. So I don’t mind if a professional narrator reads the book.
Whereas, with marketing? Marketing isn’t a science. Some claim that it is, but if that were the case, a given method would have to give the same results for everyone—which isn’t the case. Now, this doesn’t mean that marketing is a mythical, illogical thing. Not at all. In my previous life, I used to work in digital marketing, and marketing is very much… how should I put this? It’s about consistency, planning, and measuring. Digital marketing, especially, because consistent planning and measuring is possible. Paid advertising. SEO. It doesn’t have much to do with myths or pure luck.
But. I think it would be a great exaggeration to say that marketing is a science. It just… it isn’t, in my opinion.
That is why I much prefer marketing books that are narrated by the authors themselves. The very reason there are so many marketing books is that everybody has their own ideas. One of the ways in which I decide which marketing book to read is to see if the author is actually standing behind their ideas. And I thought, Mr. Mustard so totally did.
I could hear everything in this audiobook. Sometimes he smacked his lips very softly. There were pauses. There were little parts where he sounded more tired than in other parts, and his voice sounded slightly different as if he had a cup of water just now.
And I liked all of that. It wasn’t sterile at all, which sometimes happens in nonfiction books. Jamie Mustard sounded like a person in this audiobook.
He performed the idea within the book. Practicing what you preach while preaching is totally possible, and to do that, you just gotta do some things yourself. It was a pleasant meta experience to listen to him talk about how he was talking.
All this is related to a Youtube video that I recently watched, about deadmau5. The title of the video is “deadmau5: How to Market Without Marketing,” and it’s about how deadmau5 doesn’t need to market specifically to market, because he puts so much of himself out there. How he makes music, how he doesn’t make music, how he makes money, how he doesn’t make money, all that, he puts out there.
See, this is why I think marketing at its core can’t be science. What matters more than any particular strategy is that deadmau5 is deadmau5.
This is very different from some parts of the marketing “industry” at the surface level, where the product or service doesn’t matter. I used to work at agencies where they tried to make a shit product look better, and I hated it. So hated it. And the worst part was that these shit product makers had money to burn. Whatever they lacked in quality and especially taste, they just plastered whole with more money. And for that, one doesn’t have to be oneself. Anybody can do that. An army of cheap recent graduates can run PPC ads for you. Oh sure, some will optimize the campaigns better than others, but still, in the larger scheme of things, it doesn’t matter who does it. If one marketer is sick, or if one marketer dies, that’s fine. Someone will be there to replace them both. It’s possible. That’s why marketing agencies are usually very much pyramid-shaped. If there are a hundred new hires, there are maybe like twenty middle managers, because small teams are such a big deal and I guess it’s part of what agencies sell to the client? And then atop the managers, there are five executives, and then the CEO.
The bottom always gets replaced, because there is no space at the top.
Of course, all companies are like this to varying degrees. But see, the necessity of youth and energy that is often emphasized in the marketing industry, and, again, the ready replaceability of a worker, makes it very easy to just hire recent graduates rather than keep existing workers.
And I think it’s becoming more and more like this, because these days, people like deadmau5 and even high school Tiktokers know that they are what matters. And the small business owners who create physical products, they know that they, the small business owners, are what matters.
In this era where everyone has a phone with high-quality cameras, and therefore can create a video, as well as write a short text, or take pictures, or record any sound, and then quickly upload all those things to the interwebs, waiting around for someone else to do it for you is actually a cost.
For very big companies, hiring other people might be more efficient, sure. The aforementioned companies with enough money to burn—they do it, because there is no “self” in those companies. They are so old and established that there is no human behind their product anymore.
But deadmau5 or Mr. Mustard? Even if they do hire marketing professionals, what matters is deadmau5 or Mr. Mustard, not the marketing professionals.
And these days, frankly, you can tell. You can tell when someone isn’t doing it themselves. And I’m not saying you have to do everything yourself because that’s impossible—if you have a successful business, at some point you need to hire help. But when you clearly can respond to people but you don’t, or when you respond but for whatever reason, you adopt this utterly robotic legalese, it’s just really… weird.
I think the humans of the year 2022 have undergone so much bullshittery from social media marketing and digital marketing and any other kind of marketing, in general, to have much patience for such bullshit.
Marketing isn’t science. Other people absolutely cannot replicate what you, as the business owner or artist or whatever, can do for yourself. You have to be there. Only you can do it. Otherwise, most likely you’re competing on price. In which case, it probably isn’t a matter of marketing, as much as lowering the price as much as you can, and advertising the heck out of your product.
But price is never uniquely about you. As soon as someone else can create what you create, it’s a race to the bottom. Having things that you need to do yourself is a weapon, not a weakness that must be overcome. The idea of a business that purely runs on its own might be attractive, until someone else does it for you and you become totally replaceable.
Now, there are big successful brands that are more about the brand itself than the people who first built them. These are the brands that have money to burn. But even they attempt to create human connections. Because Coca-Cola or Walmart or Apple, the brands, no matter how strong the brands, cannot stand alone without some kind of human connection, they usually run advertising and marketing campaigns that emphasize this connection aspect.
Say, Coke does have a nostalgia aspect.
Apple these days, I feel like it’s more about the creators who use Apple rather than anything about the company itself. There used to the Steve Jobs days where Apple itself built this brand of a visionary, but I think that phase has passed now. Now it’s about the people who use Apple as a tool to be who they are.
But you know what? The bond I feel toward Coca-Cola or Apple, and especially to Walmart, is always weaker than any bond I feel toward a small business.
For example, Vellum. Vellum is the program I use to convert my books to EPUB and PDF. It’s run by Brad and Brad. Yes, two Brads. They used to work at Pixar, and now they do this thing. I don’t know much else about them, but this info I just told you is more than I know about Coca-Cola’s board of directors. Or Apple’s. I couldn’t care less if those companies disappeared tomorrow. The effect of their disappearance would be almost zero, in my case, because I don’t even own their stocks. And even if I did, they wouldn’t be the only ones, because I diversify my porfolio, and see, they’re nothing more than numbers to me.
The best example of a relatively big brand with really strong human connection, right now, that I can think of, is Tesla and Elon Musk. You can think all kinds of things about Elon Musk. Personally I find him obnoxious, especially when he talks about how people should be having more kids, when he literally has the money to help make that a reality but for some reason doesn’t spend it, he just irresponsibly talks about people needing to have more kids, as if, like there weren’t enough children who are being abandoned or living in poverty. But regardless of what I think about him, he has almost this… cult following. I think he’s doing absolutely genius things, marketing-wise. I mean, do you really care about all the car companies running Super Bowl commercials? Tesla doesn’t even do that, because it doesn’t need to. You can say he’s manipulative, you can say he’s a liar. But you can never say he’s not being seen. Actually being seen. Not as an ad that interrupts the game, but as the creator of something that people look up intentionally. At least he seems more authentic than many other brands. Even his nonsensical and irresponsible claims make him more human. See, people don’t want perfection. They just want a connection, something real, or something that at least comes across as real.
Is all this good? Is this bad? The fact that so long as there is some kind of connection, we’ll, sort of, fall for anything?
I say, it’s neither good nor bad. That’s the thing with marketing. The marketing method itself is independent of what is being marketed. Whatever the product or service is, if you’re a marketer, oh, you’ll market it.
But think about what you can do if you know how to do this for the things you really care about—for the rare cases where you feel strongly about the product or service itself, and now you want to make it be seen. Or maybe it’s about a person. If you believe in a person and you want that person to be seen.
Now you have a weapon for a cause. Or a shield, depending on how you feel about the words weapon and shield. Maybe it’s both.
If you are the person who is being marketed or the creator of the product or the service, then I think doing some aspects of marketing yourself will do wonders. The Iconist by Jamie Mustard and this deadmau5 video are just two examples of how much personal marketing can benefit you.
Practicing what you preach while preaching is totally possible, and to do that, you just gotta do some things yourself. And it was so refreshing to see someone in a marketing-related field actually do it, instead of just talking about it. I’ve seen self-proclaimed marketers do one podcast episode and never do another again. I’ve seen them attempt to eliminate themselves from their business, altogether, which is like… do they expect that people will flock because of their superb marketing, when they clearly can’t even market themselves? I don’t know.
All I know is that I’ve decided not to follow them, because one, there was nothing to follow, and two, there was no “them.” And this doesn’t just apply to artists or influencers. It’s everyone. I think by now, a million people are coding at some capacity, all over the world. What do I care if one or the other one of them created a new product? Even if it helps me, most likely there are like fifteen other people who’re doing the exact same thing. It is very rare that a product or service, on its own, can succeed in the market, especially if it’s not about price.
Even with the best product, what happens is that a company without a person is just like any internet rando. That’s why so many of them try to hire influencers and artists, basically, anybody who does have that personal connection with their audience, to be the face or voice of the brand in their stead.
But see, even with an army of marketing agency hires and a bunch of influencers—the fact that you need those intermediaries subtly but not even so subconsciously, in this day and age, implies to the market that you’re replaceable. You made this product. You created this service. You wrote this book, you wrote this song, you painted this art. Why are you relying on other people to talk about it?
I think it would be strange.
Just be yourself, and let others know that you’re being yourself. Because, if you’re being yourself alone in a room without any witnesses, sure, no one can argue that being yourself still gives you personal pleasure, but you can hardly expect others to notice—or even to know that you’re there.
So, yeah. Sometimes I think I put too much stuff out there, but then I look at people I follow, and I’m like, “Nah.” All of them put out a ton. And by the way, putting a lot of yourself out there doesn’t mean you have to risk your privacy, at all. It only means there is more to connect with.
And this doesn’t have to get into that weird parasocial relationship territory. You know, unless you think you’re best friends with someone just because you emailed back and forth a few times, I think you’re safe from the psychological dangers of latching onto the next interesting-looking internet personality.
But even with the dangers—We are made of flesh, blood, and bones. Whoever reminds us of that will be rewarded with more stuff that will become their flesh, blood, and bones. It’s a desirable cycle. Maybe that’s what drives us to follow certain people and consume what they create—because without any expectation of getting something in return, they gave first. It’s only natural that it’s their turn to reap the rewards.
- The Iconist by Jamie Mustard: https://theiconist.org/
- “deadmau5: How to Market Without Marketing” by Alex Berman: https://youtu.be/5A4B2jabNo8
- Vellum: https://vellum.pub/
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