Graduating with a degree in Psychology and Anthropology but a passion for creative writing left me slightly lost. There were countless paths I could follow, and yet none of them felt quite right. I ended up taking a Marketing internship at a small start-up, as blog writing seemed to be the closest I could come to writing as a profession for the time being. Six months of intensive marketing training later, I managed to get a job and stay at that start-up. Three years later, I’m still there, and my days are consumed with marketing in the travel industry.
I began to realise how seamlessly marketing slipped into my daily life. Every advert is examined with fresh eyes; every website is filled with clues. Even simple texts were changed to me as I searched for the telltale signs of Search Engine Optimisation and superior development.
But it was only recently that I realised that this was not the extent of it, that my time in marketing has even infiltrated my personal life and, namely, my relationships. Marketing is in everything we see or do, but also in everything we say.
No one likes to be told what to do. It’s a simple fact, one that we adopted as children and refuse to shake off. We don’t like being forced to do something. It’s been shown that humans love choice; they like feeling as if they have the power in the situation. It will make them report higher satisfaction ratings at doing the activity, just because it feels like they chose to do it.
Instead of asking my partner to vacuum whilst I clean the kitchen because I know they prefer vacuuming, I’ll ask them which of the two tasks they want to do. They will still end up vacuuming but it will make them more motivated to vacuum as they feel like they had a choice and prefer the task. The task is no longer just a chore but the lesser of two disliked chores. They are choosing to vacuum rather than being told to do it.
In marketing, we always have to consider how we present the product to the consumer. We can’t tell them what they want to do, or even what they want; they have to come up with it. So we present it as an option that they can choose; we let them be in charge by not assuming they’ll choose us. You have to be the best option rather than the only option.
I often tell people that my psychology degree has helped me a lot in marketing. Of course, a large part of that may be excusing my expensive degree that filled three years with stress and essays. But I also honestly believe it. Psychology is present in almost everything we do, especially marketing.
An example of this is in the power of lexical choices. Every word we use has power. Every word is a decision. When we’re creating text for social ads, we have to really consider what we say. We have limited space to get our message across, so each character is precious. We also don’t want to give false promises or fire up a confrontation (more on that later!). So we examine what we’ve written over and over, searching for loopholes, for miscommunication. Then we ask someone else to check it as well.
In daily life, we often forget about the power of words and speak without thought. That’s natural as it would be exhausting to overthink every single thing we say. But I think this is especially important when it comes to conflicts and important conversations.
A friend once told me that they’re not allowed to use decisive language like ‘always’ or ‘never’ in family discussions. Examples of this would be:
“You always cut me off!”
“You never ask about my day.”
“You always guilt-trip me.”
Decisive language is extremely attacking and will put the other person on the defensive line, making them less malleable to your argument and instead angrier at you. By removing these exaggerated terms - do they really ALWAYS do that? Every single time?- you create a more open space for the discussion. This allows both parties to express themselves and be heard.
You should also never assume what the other person wants. If we were to tell someone in a social ad that they want to go to this place this summer, they’d likely feel the need to comment and respond that they don’t. Instead, we ask them if they want to go there, we tell them why they should. Never fill in the blanks for your partner and instead ask them. Don’t tell them why they do this to you; ask them why.
It’s important to focus on your side of things as that is the only side that you know. Focus on how something makes you feel rather than why they do it, as that gives them the missing insight. They may not intend to hurt you, but if their actions do, then something needs to change.
You should never lie to your partner; it’s as simple as that. The same goes for marketing, where we aim to avoid an outright lie but rather attractively package the truth. I like to think of it as a moral duty, but others probably shelter under legal liability.
The cliche example of this would be if your partner asks if you find someone else attractive. Of course, you could lie and say that you don’t, but it’s unlikely they’d believe you. So that would result in insecurity and more issues. Or you could take a page out of marketing and word it well.
“Yes, but I really think you’re more attractive.”
You’ve admitted that they’re an attractive being, but you’re bringing the focus back to what the customer wants, which is security. So you’re showing honesty but also confirming that they’re your focus.
“I guess so.”
By intentionally using uncertain language, you allow for a seed to be planted. That perhaps you didn’t notice them, perhaps it takes you a minute to realise. You’re not lying, but you’re also not leaping on the truth and gushing over the person.
Alternatively, this can be used in moments of confrontation or issues within the relationship. For example, if something about your partner bothers you, instead of labelling it as something you hate or need them to change, you can instead bring it forward in a different manner. Focus on the positive aspect rather than the negative.
“I don’t like that dress on you” becomes “I actually prefer that other dress you wear, the one with the ruffled sleeves, that looks so good on you.”
Honesty is always the best policy, but that isn’t to say that honesty can’t be neatly packaged with a bow. Get the truth across but ensure it is in a manner that boosts your partner rather than tears them down.
When it comes to content marketing, you need to write about things you’re passionate about. I have seen a lot of articles written, all with the same SEO expertise and tools, yet some will perform well whilst others won’t. Maybe it sounds crazy, but I genuinely believe that Google can see the passion in an article. It can tell when an article is written around keywords rather than interest and when an article is rushed and forced rather than chatty and delightful.
But as tempting as it is just to write whatever you want, you’ve also got to remember that you’re not just writing for yourself. If you are using content marketing to drive people to your brand, you need to write what they’re looking for. So I research the topics that people search for and want to know more about, and then I ensure that I approach them from a place of passion. A lot of articles I write for work are simple listicles, but I find the fun in them and keep them witty and light. I ensure that passion meets popularity.
This is the case in your personal life too. You have to consider both your passions and what others want, and then find the compromise. For example, I love talking about Taylor Swift and could do it for hours. But my friends aren’t interested in her, so they wouldn’t enjoy this hour-long monologue on how she is revolutionising the music industry. But you should also avoid silencing yourself and forcing yourself into a box of their interests. So I add one Taylor Swift song to the music queue rather than a full album. Or, if my friends bring her up, I’ll talk about her, but I’ll also limit it and save the rest for when I’m speaking to a fellow fan.
It’s important to have things in common with your partner, but those differences are equally vital, as in those differences is the potential to grow. They push you out of your comfort zone. Even so, there will be things you don’t agree on or both like. Instead of moulding them into what you want, allow for these differences and find where compromise is possible. Maybe you won’t go to concerts together because you have such different tastes, but then try to see if the cinema is something you could embark on together. Maybe you love Indian food, and they just can’t stand it; instead of forcing them to try it yet again, work out which cuisine you both like. Don’t fake who you are or ignore your own interests, but instead, find your relationship equivalent to passion meets popularity.
Marketing in a start-up is all about trial and error. You don’t have things set in stone, so you’re really exploring all the options. You’re testing specific social media platforms and exploring which posts work well on it. You’re exploring where you should invest your budget and where it doesn’t show returns.
I’ve made mistakes, spent budget where it showed almost no effect and missed good opportunities because I didn’t plan ahead or check my inbox in time. But, I don’t consider them mistakes, and neither does my company because we learn through them. We learn what not to do, and from that, we learn what to do.
The same goes for any relationship. Firstly, in that a relationship is never a mistake. Every relationship teaches you things. Some are good. My ex-boyfriend introduced me to TV shows that I ended up loving and never would’ve tried without his encouragement - like Breaking Bad! The songs he showed me are in my most played, and he changed the way I listen to a song by showing me all the different aspects that go into it. Some are bad. Pain is one of the greatest teachers, even though we wish we could avoid it entirely. Heartbreak is a raw physical experience and something I wouldn’t wish on my enemy. But we learn, and we move forward.
Secondly, we learn from mistakes during a relationship. We learn their triggers, their sore spots, their flaws. We learn, and then the key is to move forward. Something they did hurt you, and this should be acknowledged, and then progression must happen. Explain why it hurt you and what you need in the future. Don’t dwell on it as it won’t help either of you. It isn’t about being right; it is about learning.
And the same goes for if you mess up. Sometimes we don’t really get why our actions impacted them, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t. So try to understand, allow them to explain and then work out how you can move forward together.
My least favourite social media channel to work with is Facebook. I am barely on Facebook nowadays, and so it surprises me how active people can be. More so, it amazes me how incredibly negative people can be. I don’t actively comment on things that don’t concern me, and so I am consistently surprised at how people will go out of their way to be rude. Not to be constructive, not to share their view, but to tear you down. I used to get so worked up about the negative comments on our social ads, which could be ignorant and honestly hateful.
But eventually, I had to learn that this will always be the case. There will always be people who dislike what you’re doing, and the fact that you found them shows how wide a net you’re casting. I have cried over comments on my Medium articles and struggled to reply until my partner once told me that I don’t owe those people a response. I don’t have to respond; it’s actually a choice. So maybe that is something my partner taught me about marketing!
The same goes for relationships. Things won’t always be perfect, and there will always be negativity. People won’t like you, and that’s okay. Friends might not like your partner, which is a shame but sometimes how it is. Likewise, your partner might not like some of your friends. Whilst you should try your best, you also need to accept that some people are not everyone’s taste, it’s almost impossible to be that without deceiving yourself.
There will be negativity within your relationship. There will be times when you don’t like your partner or even hate them for a moment. This isn’t the end; this is natural in a long-term relationship. Of course, they should never hurt you intentionally, and if you’re unhappy, you should see if perhaps you need to be apart. But don’t be scared to be unhappy with them and express that you are. Negativity will always exist, so focus on what you can control.
What I can control is my response to such hateful comments, if any. What I can control is reminding myself of all the positive things people say and the kind responses to my blogs.
Too often, we quickly categorise things, like circles of a Venn diagram that should never cross. But if we’re given a category of marketing and of relationships, you’ll actually find a huge oval of overlap. Because everything in our life is related in some form, you just have to look for it. The skills you build for your profession or even as a hobby can always come into play elsewhere. By keeping your mind open, you allow yourself to train these skills further and utilise them to the full extent. I use my psychology degree in my marketing job even when it doesn’t explicitly ask for it, and especially then. I leave the office (or at least my home office), and I don’t slip out of the marketing mindset like I do my bra. Instead, I try to find a new place for them in my personal life and my relationship.
Always remember that you don't owe your partner your size!
And why do I call them my partner in the first place?
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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