The Fundamentals of Marketing

What are we talking about when we talk about marketing? To me, a discussion of marketing is a conversation about a few core fundamentals. Namely:

1. Attention

How do we get it and what do we do with it once we have it?

2. Trust

How do we earn and maintain it? What’s the promise we’re making and how do we show up to it?

3. Perspective

Having a brand means having a point of view. What’s ours? How do we express it in everything that we build and do?

And when it comes to our audience, how do they see the world? How can we meet them where they are?

4. Resonance

Good marketing resonates. It’s pre-verbal. How can we communicate in a way that leverages all of the senses, connecting us with and to our full selves?

5. Responsibility

It’s a privilege to show up and advocate for a group of people that trust you to lead the way. How can we, as Seth Godin says, make things better by making better things? How can we contribute by building something that’s inherently generative?

In short: how can we use what we have to do what we can?

Copywriting in the Wild #1

You can learn a lot about copywriting (and marketing!) by paying attention to what’s around you.

Have a look at this sign I saw outside of my local library. “Welcome back to your library.” Not the library, your library. By implying ownership, they’re creating a personal connection. Why is this important? Because we’re more likely to appreciate and care for things we think belong to us.

And this AirPods case…

It could say something as simple as “Made in China”—which would also be true—but it doesn’t. They want you to know it’s Designed by Apple in California. Because all of those words mean something—they represent the luxury and status we associate with the brand. They’re also aware that “Made in China” might have a negative connotation to their customers, so they’ve used the word Assembled.

Each word is deliberate. A cue that reinforces their brand—what you think and feel when you see an Apple product, buy your own, or see their logo.

Ephemerality, Social Media, and Showing Up

It’s easier to show up when it’s off the record. When it’s just you talking to a friend or chatting over the fence with your neighbour. Most of our conversations aren’t recorded and stored forever (well, at least we don’t think they are), and our communication style reflects that.

If we think we’re being recorded, we act accordingly. Our posture shifts. We start to edit ourselves.

Evan Spiegel, the founder of Snapchat (one of the few social platforms built on ephemerality), gave a great interview on this. He talks about creating a social network where it doesn’t feel like we’re performing, because when we think we’re on stage we actually narrow the range of emotion that we communicate with.

Something to think about for those of us who lead online communities. How does the tech you use modify your audience’s behaviour? How does it modify yours? How does this impact the values and interests of the collective?

Metrics direct behaviour. If you remove the metrics of success that don’t serve your mission (such as likes or views) perhaps people would show up more like you want them to—more like themselves.

What Are You Paying to Amplify?

You know how they say more money won’t solve your problems, it’ll just make you more of who you already are?

It’s the same with advertising. Before you throw money behind your business or product, ask yourself what you’re paying to amplify.

Getting more eyeballs isn’t going to improve your customer’s experience. It’s not going to make your service easier to use or your onboarding any less painful. It’s not going to make people like your product more, it’s going to make it extremely obvious what people don’t like.

Attention doesn’t equal customers, and it certainly doesn’t equal retention.

Before you pay for visibility, ask yourself if more eyeballs will measurably solve your problem. Ask yourself if you’re proud of what you’re calling people over to look at.

If not, address that first.

How Do I Get More Followers?

You’re asking the wrong question. Better to ask, “How can I be helpful?”

Building a business isn’t about being seen, it’s about making others feel seen.

Focus on that and, in time, the right people will notice.


Taken at Cadette Studio’s most recent Gather & Connect event. Allison Asis, the founder of Cadette Jewelry, hosts events every few months so that Toronto creatives can meet and learn from each other. They always sell out which is proof, to me, that she’s doing the hard but necessary work of making others feel seen.

You Can’t Sell Without Attention

Before you can sell anything you need to have someone’s attention. Someone, somewhere, has to care what you have to say.

Marketing is simply the act of earning and keeping attention.

Do you know who your people are? Where they hang out online and offline? Do you understand what they care about? How to talk to them?

If not, get curious and figure it out.

Correlation is Not Causation

“Statistics simply tell us the range of what we can expect to happen, not why or how it will happen in any given moment. What we need is understanding.”

Seth Godin shared this on his podcast, Akimbo, as a reminder that when two things are correlated it does not mean that one caused the other.

In a world increasingly driven by data, correlation can be a trap. It’s easy to look at the data and see what we want to, to find correlations that fit our biases and serve our agendas. It’s easy to offload the responsibility of our actions by pointing to the numbers and saying, “I did what they told me to do.”

If your actions are driven by data alone, you’re missing an opportunity to do better.

Your understanding—of others, of systems, and of your own blind spots—makes all the difference.

Four Marketing Skills to Develop

1. Curiosity

Curiosity is meeting the unknown with humility. It’s about asking questions others aren’t willing to, allowing you to do things others aren’t able to. This is how you get attention.

2. Curation

Curation is connecting people with what matters to them. It’s about discernment, taste, and timing. This is how you provide value.

3. Empathy

Empathy is the desire to understand and advocate for an experience that’s not your own. It’s about making people feel seen by helping them make sense of themselves. This is how you earn trust.

4. Ownership

Ownership is taking responsibility for a group of people and leading them to where they want to go. It’s about being in it for the long haul, owning the cause over the product. This is how you create change.

Frustration vs Disorientation

“A video game must frustrate a user, but it must never disorient them.”

That’s Howard Scott Warshaw discussing why E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, a game he developed for Atari, is the worst video game ever.

Frustration in a video game is essential. It’s a motivator to get better, faster, and stronger, which ultimately leads to satisfaction.

Disorientation, on the other hand, is terrible. If you don’t know what’s going on, where you are, or what you’re working towards, there’s no motivation to play the game.

Consider how this applies to whatever it is you sell. Frustration is the tension that exists between where we are and where we want to go. People pay to get rid of that tension.

Disorientation is a result of inconsistent messaging. Confused people don’t become customers.