Marketing

the tear.

Lost in choices.

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Serving suggestion: This post is best read with “Eye of the Needle” by Sia playing in the background.

I should have known it was coming; it had been bubbling away under the surface throughout the day. Just a faint little scratch on my back where even my disproportionately long arms cannot reach.

It hit me as I was standing there surrounded by strangers. It had been a while since its last visit, but here it was again as the bleached white horizon melted into a majestic, luminous blue. What were once trees were now shadowy silhouettes in this twilight puppet show.

Here we all are – standing centimetres away from each other, whilst only paying our palms any regard. We wouldn’t be able to hear what our neighbour said even if they did say anything. Those white cords are so tangled up in everything now.

****

I have been drafting this blog post, on and off, for nine months.

Nine months.

It was nine months ago that this new reality suddenly clarified itself. And when it did, it all became rather petrifying.  

It began with the realisation that I am nearing the end of my current life stage. It is all fairly insignificant, but in this moment it feels so daunting. See, up until now there was such a limited range of choices:

You can choose to go to this school or that school. You can choose to be friends with this person or that person, this group or that group. You can choose to break the rules or toe the line. You can choose to go into a trade or stay at school. You can go on a gap year or work or go to university. You can choose to dress how you like. You can choose to study, basically, anything. You can choose to be friends with these people or those people. You can choose where you work part-time. You can choose where you want to live. You can choose to change jobs. You can choose what you consume, literally and metaphorically. 

But the next set of choices is bewildering.

You can choose what you want to do with the rest of your life. You can choose which industry you want to work in. You can choose to travel the world without a return ticket. You can choose to think about the future and save up for your first property. You can choose to move to the other side of the world. You can choose, well, anything.

It just feels like these decisions are going to have so many more repercussions, that they are going to be far more instrumental in determining the tone of the rest of my life than all of the decisions I have made prior to today.

****

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Ahh, kindergarten cliches.

I cannot clearly remember what I “wanted to be” as a kid. Although, I have a vague feeling that there was a stage when I wanted to be a marine biologist (mainly because it sounded exotic). Apart from that I can’t seem to remember, which for someone who often has a disturbingly detailed memory, is mildly disconcerting. I can vividly recall posters on our kindergarten walls, but I can’t remember what I wanted to grow up to be.

These days I have a better idea of what I want to be. And by “better idea” I mean “I have an answer to the “So, what are you going to do when you finish uni?” question”.
“Marketing,” I reply. That seems to satisfy all parties. And, look, it’s not like I don’t want to work in marketing. I do. I think I do, at least. I mean, it combines many of my skills and interests, plus it is a growing industry where, in relative terms, there are jobs available (the novelty!) I think I can see myself doing well in marketing and enjoying it to a greater or lesser extent.

To a greater or lesser extent.

Unfortunately, I am blessed and cursed with having learnt about the concept of fulfilling work. On the one hand, it is wonderful and inspiring. On the other, I am letting it paralyse me, because now, although I try to rationalise it, that is what I am seeking.

I am going to start working full-time in the near future – something which many of my peers have already been doing for multiple years – and I just want to know that I am making the right decision for me. I feel like I’ve wasted enough of my early twenties farting around as I struggled through uni (and life in general).

I guess I’ve allowed myself to think that my twenties are the only formative time of my life. Yes, I think they are very formative, but I’ve gotten this idea in my head that I have to get through a heck of a lot of stuff in the next seven years. Lord.

****

Where within the marketing industry should I work? Should I work in media or branding or PR or digital? Should I work agency or client side? Are all of the stereotypes about client and agency sides true? (My experience thus far says “yes”.) Will the work that I do actually make a positive contribution to the world? Will I enjoy it? Will it be fulfilling? Or will it govern my life? Will I chase after success and then realise that it doesn’t actually mean that much?

Or should I just take advantage of the fact that I am young and go and pursue my dream of living in Italy? Should I just ship my ass over to Italia and not look back? But what about buying my investment property? And getting started on my career? And doing sensible setting-myself-up-for-life things that I want to do? And what if I don’t ever come home?

That I have the audacity to complain is, in many ways, truly breathtaking. 

I am in the privileged, incredibly privileged position where I have choice. My pay, even if it’s seen as a “low” starting salary among my equally junior peers, will still place me amongst the most wealthy in the world. My work may not be as glamorous or interesting as that of others, but I’ll probably work in a safe, reasonably friendly workplace with my own computer, stationery galore, clean(ish) carpets, a swivel chair, bins which are emptied on a regular basis, flushing toilets, a kitchen, running water and air-conditioning. There may not be that many women in the boardroom – yet – but women are, on the whole, respected and treated as equals.

Yet, despite all of this, I look ahead and wonder whether I am going to be in the air-conditioned confines of an office for the rest of my foreseeable future with despair. And I wonder, if I choose to channel my ambitions and energy into this part of my life am I going to get to the end of my life – whether that be months, years or decades away – and be satisfied with how I spent the precious little time that I have on this Earth?

****

The buses, these great mammoths, weave through impossibly tight cracks in the traffic. The doors open and we, with our white cords dangling around our scarf-wrapped necks, silently file in. Will I come to know each of these faces, will I watch them silently age, but never know their names?

There are only remnants of burnt orange along the horizon now and what was a royal blue has been submerged in a midnight ink. Where did the sunshine go? I barely know what the weather was like today. Is this what being an adult is meant to be like?

****

The tear. It’s another one of those idiosyncrasies of the English language: it is both a noun (the water-like result of crying which comes from your eyes), a verb (to rip something) and yet another noun (the result of the ripping). 

This is the latter noun; this is my tear: I am unsure which direction to take my life in. I would really just like to be able to do it all. Or at least to do something and know that I was making the right decision for me, knowing that I wasn’t making a terrible mistake and wasting another irretreivable day.

And, ironically, this tear can sometimes result in another noun: the water-like droplets which carve out their path through my makeup. 

Alex x

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#socialmediafails: Like me! Follow me! (Love me.)

Awkward social media realisations and what motivates me to write.

ImageWhat is more fictitious, rainbow-coloured unicorns or what I post on social media?

“Comparison is the thief of joy”
– Theodore Roosevelt.

Last year I read an article which fundamentally shifted my perspective of my twenty-something life. The article, entitled “Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy”, struck so many chords in me that I still have the tab open in my phone web browser. The article explains the relationship between the discontentment many Gen Ys feel and our use of social media.

Can I highly recommend that you go and read it? I can? Good. If you have not read it please, PLEASE STOP READING THIS and go there RIGHT NOW! Come back to this tomorrow. Just go. Go!! Yes, it is quite long, but yes, it is that good. Have you gone yet? There are unicorns spewing rainbows. Now have I convinced you? Good. Finally.

After having read the Wait But Why* article everything suddenly made so much more sense. The comparative inadequacy I felt, which I had let social media fuel, was able to be rationalised down to a competition where, unbeknownst to me, everyone else is cheating just as much as I am. (For anyone who spews rainbows must be a master of illusions.) I found this clarity and the realisation that no one actually has their sh!t together really quite comforting.

Since having these mini unicorn-illustrated revelations you would think that I would try and do my little bit to stop this really awful, toxic cycle, right? Right. Wrong. 

Despite gaining this new perspective I have not demonstrated the maturity or security in myself to stop posting self-promoting status updates, tweets and photos. Posting on social media to (strategically) garner as many likes and follows as possible is Just. So. Addictive.

I’m guilty of it. I still am. It can range from the successful (“I got a full scholarship! I got a new job!”) to the vain (“Oh, did I just accidentally post a selfie? #notthataccidental”) to the envy-eliciting (“Casual check-in at a 5 star restaurant, darlings!”).

I am completely guilty of this. Yet, why do I still do this? Because it feeds my ego.

It makes me feel special.
It makes me feel important.
It makes me feel valued.
It makes me feel loved.
(And if that’s not f-ed up, then I don’t know what is.)

Is posting really inane, “real” details about our lives the solution? It’s a nice thought, but I don’t think so as that could be:
a) just as attention-seeking as the aforementioned types of posts. I’m sure you’ve encountered them, too – the vague, wallowing, woe-sharing without any explanation (think “Life is the worst!”) which often receive an outpouring of social media sympathy and “care”. (Perhaps that’s part of the issue – maybe we have conditioned ourselves to feel better by sharing our negative experiences on social media. Are we really that disconnected in real life?? If so, then that’s depressing.)
b) bloody boring (Posts of the “I just popped a really big pimple” variety. Too much reality. We do not need that much detail, thanks.)

Who the hell are we kidding? We all know rationally that real life does not have a vintage filter which enhances the colour of our days. Life can be wonderful, but life can be shit. This is nothing new. So, how come we are all buying into this big con, when we probably know that what we see on social media is only a fraction of someone else’s life – and it’s a fabricated fraction at that?

Perhaps the way to counter this isn’t by changing how and what we post, but by weaning ourselves off it altogether. Perhaps it’s time to migrate away from this behemoth that we incessantly feed. Perhaps it’s time to de-friend the fake friend that is social media.

(I mean, how has “de-friend” been allowed to become part of our vernacular?)

****

Personally, I’ve been challenged by my relationship with social media through this blog.

“How?” you inquisitively inquire?

Well, over time it has become apparent that certain types of posts garner more likes, follows and hits than others, which makes it tempting to only write pieces of that ilk. From working in marketing I also know that ensuring that there is new content posted on a regular basis is beneficial for organic search engine optimisation (which we marketing folk call “SEO” – sorry for the jargon) where, basically, you’re aiming to be the first result in a Google search of certain terms which are relevant to your business/website/blog. You can aid your SEO by using key terms relevant to the searches you want to appear in throughout your site and by adding new content on a regular basis.

So, I’ve gotten into the habit of coordinating my posts on certain days of the week not only for SEO, but to correspond with when I know I’ll get the most traffic. An example? I do not post on Saturday night because:
a) most people are engaged in other activities on Saturday night and thus are less likely to see that I have posted something new and
b) it has become Very Important to pretend that you are having an Awesome Time doing something Awesome on Saturday night (even if you’re at home studying or sitting on Facebook when you’re meant to be studying). No one wants to commit social (media) suicide. Duh. 

But here’s the thing, I enjoy writing most when it is done out of a creative and emotional impulse. I need to express myself and it needs to happen now! And that means writing about things which are more or less sexy, controversial and happy-go-lucky than that which constitutes a popular post. Recently, I’ve been making myself post a new piece on certain nights each week which I fear is shifting my writing away from “impulse and expression” to “obligation”. The latter of which is the antithesis of what I want for this to be, because doing so would change the nature of this blog entirely.

See, I do not write for you; I write for us.

The “us” is imperative.

This blog would not be what it is if I didn’t write, firstly, for myself. See, if I was only writing to satisfy an external audience then I would find it less meaningful and fulfilling and the end product would reflect my being less emotionally invested in it.

Of course I write knowing that I have an audience and I greatly appreciate your readership, you gorgeous little bandicoots. It fills me with immense pleasure when you share that you have enjoyed reading a post or that it touched you. I love that. That really makes me so glad and it makes me feel pretty honoured, too. It is also, more often that not, comforting to hear that I am not the only one who is absolutely failing at life on a regular basis.

But of course not everyone likes this blog. And that’s perfectly ok – I am all for everyone having their own opinion. Furthermore, I am not under the illusion that this blog would appeal to everyone.

I have friends whom I respect and admire who have indicated that they do not like reading this blog. I let their unintentionally-hurtful, throwaway comments sting. Comments like, “I have another friend who has a blog. He’s a fantastic writer”. (I get what you’re implying. Cheers!) Look, I know they don’t approve of my sometimes less than G-rated vocabulary, content and cynicism. But that’s ok. I am not, after all, forcing them to read or specifically aiming to appeal to them.

But that isn’t going to stop me from writing.

I am not, after all, writing for any accolades or record-breaking number of website hits. I am not writing because I have to. I am not writing thinking that I am changing the world. I am not writing to please everyone. I am not writing to cast judgement on others (and if I do – please pull me up on it). I am not writing to perpetuate the life that I portray on Instagram.

I am writing because I find it therapeutic. I am writing because it allows me to unravel my thoughts and to learn from my experiences. I am writing because I love it.

And for the moment that is enough.

Alex x

* A name so desperately lacking in punctuation that it hurts my eyes. (Would it be so hard to add a comma and question mark?)

mouse-click miracles.

I’m sorry to inform you, but “liking” that photo will not save that baby.

be518154483b6a9a968e88ae670a41ad

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Gandhi.

Perhaps we’re all searching for a tangible miracle within our sometimes steel-clad, disenchanted world. Perhaps it’s because growing up to be a ballerina or a fire-fighter just doesn’t cut it anymore. But contributing to something that will change the world? That means something. That commands our respect and admiration. But perhaps we’ve taken it too far…

Before I get going I would like to clarify some things from the outset. Of most relevance to what is to follow: I am not a particularly charitable person. That wasn’t a deliberately self-deprecating comment, but rather a realistic one. I enjoy doing volunteer work, but I haven’t done much recently (although that is something I am going to work on this year). I don’t contribute that much money to charities or other worthwhile causes. I don’t campaign or attend rallies. I don’t fundraise. I don’t work at an NGO or charity and I don’t have any particular intention of doing so within the foreseeable future. Basically, I could be doing a lot more to help others and the world.

I would also like to emphasise that I do not intend to mock any of the causes or societal issues that I may mention. They all have real and devastating impacts on the lives of individuals throughout our world.

Disclaimer: over.

So, I may not be a particularly benevolent person, but occasionally I’ll like a photo or status on Facebook in a gesture of sincere clicktivism. I’m sure you know the type: the one where if we reach 1 million likes will mean the difference between a chronically sick child’s life or death. Or perhaps a #makeupfreeselfie for breast cancer as you may have noticed mingled into your Facebook newsfeed over the past week.

That has to count for something, right??

Well, actually, no. I don’t think so.

Sure – social media is a useful tool in driving a marketing or PR campaign. Personally, I think that a campaign without a social media activation and strategy would probably be minimising its potential and reach… unless you’re targeting non-social media users! And yes, social media has been really beneficial to individuals who are suffering in some very practical ways.

Take, for example, a dog I follow on Instagram. Yes, you read that correctly: I follow a dog on Instagram. Nice one, Alex. But to be fair, this isn’t any dog – it’s a hilarious French Bulldog named Sir Charles Barkley (You can call him Barkley for short). And with over 175K followers, Barkley’s posts travel far from his Seattle home. So far, his account has been used to find missing dogs and reunite them with their owners and raise money for pups who need expensive surgery in a similar way to how people who are seeking missing family members or a bone marrow donor have used Facebook to facilitate their search.

I’m not for a second doubting the power of social media in helping to raise awareness about certain issues and causes and that it can be really positive and powerful.

But tell me, how is sharing that photo of that baby actually going to ensure that it lives?

How is liking an animal rights photo going to save that pig?

How is retweeting Amnesty International really going to help those in need?

How is following World Vision on Facebook going to make a difference in the lives of children and communities in developing nations?

How is posting an attention-seeking status to the effect of “I want to do it on the kitchen bench” (which just happens to be a ‘secret thing amongst women’ about where you place your handbag down when you arrive at home) going to raise long-term, meaningful awareness of breast cancer?

How is supposedly divulging which colour bra you’re wearing (which is a similar thing where the colour corresponds with your birth month) going to change anything either?

How on earth is a makeup free selfie going to see an end to cancer? Please, do tell me. Ok, evidently it vaguely got my attention because otherwise I wouldn’t be typing this sentence, but have I done a breast check since seeing one of those #makeupfreeselfies? (I’ll give you a hint: two letter answer – first letter N, second letter O.) Bad Alex.

Makeup-free selfies, in and of themselves, can be positive in helping to promote a healthy, realistic body image (as long as they’re not being used as an excuse for fuelling our vanity). And if this week’s campaign was about that, then I wouldn’t be going on this mini-rant, because I have a lot of time for initiatives which help people to develop positive body image. But the last time I checked, my selfies weren’t finding a cure for cancer or encouraging my friends into doing breast checks.

imagesGW1PU19F  imagesKGNP1I0J  untitled

So, evidently I’m the Grinch of Breast Cancer awareness. You’re welcome to get pissed off at me.

You may disagree with me, but really, who the hell are we kidding? It’s great that we want to get involved and do our bit. But why don’t we do something which is meaningful, that is going to make a difference. We can contribute through the donation of time or money, for example. No, it may not get as many likes on Facebook. It may not make you look quite as baben on Instagram. It may not make you look like the socially aware, caring person that you wish to portray yourself as being.

But perhaps it could actually make a difference.

Alex x

Epilogue: And now that I have finished my little rant I guess this is the part where I ensure that I’m not a hypocrite by going out and contributing in a more meaningful way myself. #watchthisspace

PS: To the anonymous person who passed on a message to me through our mutual friend over the weekend – thank you! Also, come and say hi next time?

****

An editorial post script:

Since writing this I’ve found out that the #makeupfreeselfie trend has in fact raised a couple of million quid in the UK. This is great stuff. However, I know it may sound cynical and critical, but I find it repugnant that people were only, seemingly, spurred into action by the fact that doing so contributed to their social media self-promotion. For me, the idea of giving isn’t about the giver, but the recipient. 

In addition to this, I’d love to recommend Clementine Ford’s article in relation to the topic. She’s ace and so is her piece. Find it here.

Ax

first kiss.

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One of my close friends has recently started her post-graduate studies in publishing. Last night we sat in separate rooms, tapping at our various keyboards. However, I disrupted our workflow quite a few times as I trailed in to talk to her: either to distract myself from my job applications or to be able to share some inane thought I’d just had. As I walked in yet again I sat down, looked over her shoulder, and she offered to share the uni task she was working on with me.
Her task? To write about her first kiss.

I sat there, mesmerised. It was dripping with the first taste of sultry lust and the collision of longing, curiosity and hesitation. A smoky, sweaty romance where beautiful things happen in forgotten places.

Naturally, I interrogated her. As it turns out, this wasn’t exactly her first kiss after all: sure, it was definitely based on a real kiss from her early-mid teens, but she explained that she chose to use this one instead of her real first kiss as this was far more interesting.

A happy coincidence of academic syllabus and pop culture, her task happened to be extremely pertinent as social media has been inundated with first kisses over the past week.*

Or, more specifically, these first kisses:

Yeah, you’ve probably already watched it by now, but come on – you know you want to watch it again.

Now. Let’s chat.

You probably know the story by now: that the filmmaker Tatia Pilieva asked 20 strangers to kiss on camera. 36,299,275 YouTube hits and one parody later and we have the latest darling of Things That Go Viral. And then it came to light that the film was actually produced for LA-based fashion label, Wren, in which all of the dames are dressed. People also Googled the ‘kissers’ who starred in the film only to find that they were creatives of the semi-famous variety (models, musicians, actors et co.)

“OUTRAGE!!! ALL OF THOSE EMOTIONS ARE FAKE!! WE HAVE BEEN DECEIVED!!” we cried. Our Wednesdays seemed a tad less meaningful. All our dreams of making out with that babe from the floor below in the work elevator were unceremoniously quashed.

Oh, please. Let’s all get over ourselves.

Firstly, according to Wren’s Melissa Coker, those twenty people were strangers who genuinely didn’t know each other or what task they were going to be asked to perform prior to the filming [1]. Nor did they know when the cameras were rolling (or not) during the filming. Coker reassured us that what we saw was real, adding that all of the participants were friends of either Pilieva or herself. (They just happen to have some pretty attractive friends, don’t they?)

Either way, what we’re left with is an incredibly powerful video and a clever marketing and PR campaign.

So, what made First Kiss go viral? Why won’t my YouTube clip get 35+ million hits within four days? That’s because a clip of you discordantly humming Katy Perry songs just isn’t… doesn’t… don’t worry about it.

Quite simply, First Kiss taps into our innate desires and reaffirms our connection with those around us. The film captures, rather beautifully, a moment of shared human experience. Pilieva allows us to witness a moment of incredible emotion, sensuality and vulnerability. Kissing someone for the first time is something to which we can easily relate – reflecting our homo sapien desire for love, relationships and sex.

But Pilieva and Coker haven’t just crafted three minutes and 28 seconds of emotionally-charged black and white bliss. No. They also injected their work with some subtle social commentary. Most of the participants were paired with someone society would deem “normal and appropriate” for them in terms of age and personality (eg: twenty-something babe with twenty-something babe). However, First Kiss shakes things up a little by pairing a guy in his early twenties – who could well be gay (what do you guys think?) – and a woman in her late fifties. I found it refreshing and lovely to be reminded of the structures which our world, as a whole, subscribes to and to see those norms pushed against, if only briefly.

This theme of taboo is pervasive throughout the film: firstly, through the concept of kissing a stranger – the acting upon of a fantasy. Secondly, the fact that these kisses have an audience… of millions. Voyeurism has, obviously, been one of our favourite pastimes since the early 2000s. Thanks to our addiction to reality TV the idea of watching people cooking, sewing, building, talking, fighting, shopping, eating or even kissing isn’t by any means new. However, the moments captured in First Kiss do provide the viewer with something that we do not normally have the opportunity to observe. We witness a series of intensely private socially abnormal moments, and our presence (in the form of the camera) serves to compact the apparent nervousness of the participants.

On a practical note, like many viral campaigns, First Kiss was designed to be easy to share across social media platforms and to leave many questions unanswered. The fact that it was posted by someone who was relatively unknown and was intentionally designed with no semblance to a traditional ad, has only further fuelled its popularity.

And now that it has everyone with access to an internet connection talking, Coker has generated a huge amount of publicity for her brand. Personally, from watching First Kiss I associate the Wren brand with understanding what it means to be human – sensual, real and raw. In my mind it’s a brand which is not afraid to step outside the boundaries of the norm to try something new. And I dig that.

What do you think? Do you feel cheated after the discovery of the ‘fabricated’ nature of First Kiss? Do you think it was effective in terms of Wren’s marketing and publicity? Do you just to make out with a stranger?**

Alex x

*Unless you are living under a rock. And if that’s the case, then good for you, man.
** You and I both.

[1] http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1723997/first-kiss-video.jhtml