I have something of an anti-marketing approach to marketing. My personal belief is: be awesome, and people will love what you do. ‘People’ does not encompass all people—in the words of Ghostboy, ‘this isn’t for everyone, it’s barely even for me’—but it covers the people that ultimately matter most to you as a creative individual: real admirers.
Marketing has several flaws that betray its inauthenticity and that make me arm-flailingly angry. The first is that it assumes you want numbers over anything else. The more people exposed to your work, the more likely you are to make money. This is, of course, to a certain extent true. However, much energy can be wasted throwing yourself at people who simply do not fit your niche. Worse, energy can be utterly wasted on trying to be what the majority wants, not what you are. Chasing numbers for the sake of numbers is a futile game when you are really seeking to connect with the people who are going to have a lasting appreciation of your work. An authentic person wants to successfully do what they do, not toss it aside for whatever generates the most income. We could all go back to our corporate jobs if all we really want is money.
The second flaw stems from trying to make up for the first: market research. In an effort to narrow down the ill-defined audience, market research aims at discovering the ‘target market.’ I’m going to tell you a little secret. I haven’t done any official planning or research in terms of my target market. I don’t need to. I have two things on the people that swear by market research. The first is that I have interests. The vibe given off by market researching types is that they have no backbone, no real appreciation for anything good of their own accord. They have no trust in their own instincts or taste. To acquire taste according to current trends, they do irritating things like send you survey links, phone you incessantly and try to squeeze your valuable perspectives on taste out of you for free. (Tip: don’t tell them—your views are valuable, and you ought not give them away for free. Why should others profit from your time and your ability to spot quality without offering you anything in return? But this is another matter.) My second advantage is that I am one of ‘the kids,’ and every day I interact with ‘the kids,’ and we share cool things with each other, go to concerts together, swap books, and discuss ideas. These are the valuable perspectives market researchers would stab themselves in the eye for. All we need to do is live life. We are on the pulse of what is cool. We are defining what is cool—from the thick of it, not from above. So, to hell with market researching, says I.
What’s important is to have a presence. And that presence may or may not let people into your world a little. Ghostboy, mid-performance, held up a little dolls house and declared: ‘This is the house I grew up in. This,’ pulling out a bed with two dolls in it, and extracting one doll, ‘is my dad. This is my other dad. I’ve heard it’s good to reveal things to your audience. It makes them feel connected to you.’ Ghostboy, of course, is shrouded in mystery, and his untouchability makes him immensely interesting and frightening. He tells you contradictory things and reveals nothing. He has created a character who is characteristically a mystery. He pokes fun at those who share themselves.
Ghostboy parodies what people like the writer at Light Space & Time Online Gallery do, which might make you a little bit sick in your mouth:
For my Pinterest page I created boards for the Light Space & Time (LST) “Art Gallery Posts”, “LST Artist Press Releases”, “LST Helpful Marketing Articles” and along with a board of “My Art Photography”. When these boards get updated or added to, or re-pinned they then become a part of the Pinterest Stream. I also created boards for “Art & Photography That I Like” and then being the animal lover that I am, I created a “Dogs, Cats & Animals” board.
Whatever Ghostboy does or does not reveal, he is true to his character and is utterly authentic as an arsehole poet preoccupied with freaky sex. The kids can spot a poser, and ‘LST Admin,’ with their solitary LOLcats ‘interest’ is a fucking poser. This is how not to use social media.
The kids know when you are closing in on their sharing space with your marketing bullshit, and they steer away, or find new spaces in which to get on with sharing their treasures. As Andrew Loomis* warns: ‘exploding with joy over a toothpaste is just not natural or in good taste’ (p. 195). So here’s to your impeccable taste, your diverse and fascinating interests and your excellent positioning as a liver of life. Go forth and be rad.
* Loomis, Andrew. 1947. Creative Illustration. Viking: New York.