Friday, July 1, 2011

Ways to shoot oneself in the foot

I've been doing a lot of thinking and reading about marketing and PR lately. I've come to the conclusion that many of us undermine ourselves in ways that we think are vaguely noble.  Some of us do it subconsciously, and others do it with full intent. Do these intentions make sense?

On this blog, I write generally, and I write long posts. I know full well that both things are Verboten on the web unless one already has a devoted following. I've thought about this one a lot, and decided I don't care (much). This blog is my personal not-for-profit time wasting activity (oh, a hobby!), and though I question it repeatedly, I have decided not to change. I'll accept the consequences. 

If I was giving advice to someone else about how to promote their blog, I'd most assuredly tell them to pick one topic and stay on it. 

Yes, I'm being a contrarian. I like long books, long articles, and people who think too much. The web and reality television is causing all of us to brand our person-hood, and that is best done in small bites. I suppose my brand is wordy, self-defeating, and not at all self promoting. I am, in effect, saying, "I do not care if I succeed." Indeed, this is true. I am not a writer. For whatever reason, I decided to share my daily thoughts with whomever feels moved to read them, and that's about it for my motives. End of story.

If I was trying to sell myself or a product in the world and on the web, I would try (I hope) to look at what I'm doing without the lens of attachment. Yes, attachment. People become so attached to their ideas and products that they do not accept good advice. 

For instance, there are countless articles about What Fonts Not To Use.  I've heard many a person who has picked one of these fonts for their product say something like, "I'll not be bullied by design Nazis! I'm using it!" They think this is some sort of rebellious act (but secretly are simply hurt by finding out their choice was so poor). It is not a rebellious act to use a font that screams I Am An Amateur or I Have Lousy Taste. Thinking it might be a good joke to say I Know I Picked Something That Is Common and A Sign of Amateurism But I'm Using It Anyway Because I'm a Rebel and Am Against Marketing is altogether stupid.

Oh, don't get me started. This reminds me of the subject of getting a tattoo or a Harley Davidson to show one is Different. Millions of People Who Are Different have tattoos, ride Harleys, and wear the same clothes. 

If you believe your product will sell or you will succeed simply because you make something that is better than the rest is simply naive. We all know this. Vague notions about the evil-ness of marketing and PR do nothing to help you. Do you want to fail? The answer might be "yes." Think about it.

Failing financially has always been seen as a sign of artistic purity. Do you want to be a Starving Artist? Folks who are may not be exactly starving, but I know I'm rather sick of driving a beater car and not being able to afford new eyeglasses. My eyes are tired and I'm anxious about August, when my car is due to be inspected. I know it will fail, and if I continue to be attached to being poor, I'll be doing a heck of a lot of walking (which is fine), but my world will instantly become smaller, for I'll no longer be able to get out of my small town without a ride from someone else.

Is there really something artistically noble about this? I think not. 

One doesn't like bragging about oneself. My grandmother called those with too high an opinion of themselves "swelled heads." Funny thing is that we brag about others and other peoples' products all the time. Ever have a really good meal at a restaurant, see a great film, listen to an amazing new band? Of course you did!

I've had no problems with gushing about everyone else's stuff. "You've got to listen/watch/buy/try/read. . ."

When I first started out an a commercial illustrator, I thought if I simply showed up and presented my portfolio, it would "speak for itself." When I was a weaver, I knew my blankets were made of the highest quality yarn and woven as well as they could be. Couldn't people see that?

I had always wondered why I didn't sell one blanket at the Blue Hill Fair oh so many years ago while another company, who made "obviously" inferior blankets took in more orders than they could handle in a year. It baffled me. I wondered if I had been unfriendly. Nope. I wondered if my display was inferior. No again. I wondered if I was missing something with my product. Nah. It was lovely. 

What I completely missed was the reasons why people buy things they do not need.

People buy dreams, not products. If it's face cream, it's the idea of youth and beauty. If it's a hand woven blanket, it could be many things. Here in Maine, it's the dream of living near the water with the scent of the sea in one's hair, lazy days with a book, "The Way Life Should Be," mowing one's lawn with a push mower, and cracking lobsters open with friends. . .

If I want to sell a blanket, it has to mean something, not just be good. It doesn't even matter if it's good. 

I've known that, but it has pissed me off. What has being pissed off done for me? Not a thing. 

I mostly wove tartan blankets, and loved telling people about the myth of the tartan. It's a fascinating story, and one I'll leave for another time. I had the idea that people like the truth. I know that's not only not true, but the furthest thing from the truth. People prefer myths. The more untruth you surround your product with, the better. Besides that, if a person likes tartans, telling them that the whole history of the tartan is a sham is simply saying "You are an idiot for believing what you do and I want to burst your bubble." 

I had no idea that that was what I was doing. No wonder I didn't sell anything! My blankets and promotional materials were beautiful, but I killing people's fantasies, the last thing anyone should be indulging when trying to sell something. 

If you are selling a product and have a propensity for Speaking Truth To Power, I recommend one leave that activity for your spare time (or become an investigative journalist).

I will now abruptly end this entry.

Image note: Yes, this is a real t-shirt design. Please, before you publish your website, print your business card, or whatever else you "designed" if you're not a designer (and even if you are), google the name of the font and see if people make fun of it. Sure, you don't want to be ruled by Font Snobs, but saying "I'll do it anyway!" doesn't say anything noble about you. Really. If you had the words "Fuck You" tattooed on your knuckles, do you think you have earned the right to complain you didn't get the job? Some people do. . .