When You Wish Upon Someone Else’s Marketing Star

Nine ways some marketing stars9 ways marketing stars are like disney princesses* are like Disney princesses

  1. They promise that every dream comes true.
  2. They’re dead sexy (or at least their message is).
  3. They may try to convince you that getting noticed by the right people is as easy as wishing on a star.
  4. They make you long for a world that's more like theirs - even though you don't actually want that glitzy lifestyle.
  5. They draw you in with promises (like simple success formulas and glass slippers) that seem empty or impossible.
  6. It’s hard to get their slick, auto-tuned messages out of your head.
  7. They suggest that everything outside their glittering walls of pomp and hype is a little scary and messy.
  8. Finally, when you refuse their manufactured dreams, you have a hangover from the processed perfection.
  9. When you see them for what they really are, you're deeply, deeply grateful to be free of their version of reality.

* Some, not all, of the big name marketing minds, mind you. You know the type... the ones who use the equivalent of internet megaphones to offer quick fixes and fairy tale results.

But, even when you tune in to the ethical, well-meaning purveyors of marketing advice, you have to be sure you stay true to your own goals and story.

That One Night I Banished Anna and Elsa

The kids and I been stuck inside for four days thanks to icy rain. Husband had the stomach flu and went to bed the second he got home for work. I was just getting over the same bug and wanted to hide under the covers too. This was not going to be a good night.

I was attempting something more virtuous than frozen pizza for dinner. “Let It Go” was on Pandora again. My kindergartener told me she was Princess Elsa and I was Princess Anna and the baby could not play. "Now, Mummy, first you say..."

And I snapped.

“Enough! Disney has colonized your imagination and stolen all your stories!” (Yes, I really do talk to my child that way. Yes, she does occasionally stop me by declaring “Mom, you said too many words again.”)

“I’m the Queen around here," I declared, "and I banish all Disney princesses from this house tonight. I will be anyone you want me to be, but no Anna and no Elsa and nobody else from the movies in the cabinet!”

Let me be clear: there’s nobody to blame for the Disney contagion but us. My husband and I either bought the DVDs or allowed them to pass through the gates. Some were soundly rejected after one viewing (don’t get me started on Peter Pan). We found enough value - or enough banality - in the others to turn a blind eye to what princess worship might be teaching our girl.

Though our daughter only sees about two movies a month, they’ve each made their impression. It seems that even limited exposure to the Disney code is enough to alter a child’s inner landscape. She has been programmed by their predictable plots and stock characters and endless rules of engagement, all inspired by that Magic Kingdom we swear we'll never take her to.

That night, I broke the pink sparkly spell. I made my decree. And something magical happened.

The kitchen danced with the grace of the Fairy Dainty Queen, baby god Moira, and a house pixie who cleaned up every game and art supply (without being asked!). I was Queen Audre and little sister was the princess Leatrix. There were costume changes and dance breaks and dragons on the loose. A healthy dinner was cooked, no tears were shed, and I had the most remarkable evening of motherhood - ever.

We were free to find each other in our own stories. No one bashed her head against against the way it “should” be. There were no clashes in this truly creative play.

Maybe I’m confusing correlation with causation, but you miss the magic when you try to analyze things like that. I had the time of my life when my daughter took the reins of her own authentic story. I was my own queen in her private tale, not a co-opted corporate drone. It felt damn good. It felt like Sovereign Reality.

The one size fits all advice that has drowned out your story

So, who has co-opted your entrepreneurial imagination? Who has defined success for you and offered you a guaranteed process for fame and fortune? Who has lured you to join their list with the promise they’d reveal the secret breakthrough solution for your business growth blues?

Maybe you can’t even name names since they all blur together into a massive “them” that seems to ooze a confidence and success that you find both intoxicating and disconcerting.

Out of all the business gurus out there, it’s the content marketing experts who offer “the easy way to deliver that amazing content to keep your customers coming back for more” who really get to me. They’re the most bothersome and beguiling to the potential writers I care about most.

The “create epic content!” contingent tends to get inside the heads of people with important, nuanced stories to tell. These stories from the soul can’t instantly be cut into blog sized pieces and served up in epically engaging portions. These stories can and should grace social media and the blogosphere, and they can be used to build a business, but there’s deeper discovery work to do before one can churn out a thousand words and hit “publish.”

It’s true that content creation is important. People are drawn to you when you showcase your expertise and tell powerful stories that inspire, educate, and entertain. But when you try to push content into the world before it’s ready according to someone else’s method, you’re destined for disappointment.

In fairness, these big marketing names do have some really great insights into how to gain attention and sell product. They can even tell you about what sort of stories are most likely to engage a prospect and how to follow through to create a long term relationship with a customer.

But there are important aspects of the creative, visionary entrepreneur’s story that get lost in the big, slick presentation.

  • How can you “create epic content” before  you truly know your own story and why it’s of significance to the work you’re doing for the world?
  • How can you follow someone else’s one size fits all blueprint when you’re dedicated to creating something that has never been seen before?
  • How can you find your own true, singular voice when you’re trying to sing along to the tune of the guy with the most newsletter subscribers?

What’s possible for you when you refuse to heed the message that appeals to the masses?

Small business owners and solo entrepreneurs are like today’s busy parents: so well-meaning yet so overextended. Both are vulnerable to solutions that promise “don’t try so hard, it can be so fun and simple!”

Disney is as much a part of childhood as bedwetting and mac n’ cheese. It’s so ubiquitous, we rarely stop to evaluate its quality or its values. Even if you’re like my husband and me, it’s easier to ignore the reservations and go with the flow since it could be so much worse. And really, you’re too overwhelmed with everything else to fight the Mouse and his begowned henchwomen.

And those experts’ recommendations (that occasionally sound like commandments) about how to be a Pinterest rockstar and a Facebook badass and a content marketing machine… They seem like they’re an unquestionable part of running a successful online business too.

Make sure you stand out, they say, but conform to these basic rules.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

They can inspire us, but we're in charge of the stories we tell“We can use their ideas, but Disney isn’t in charge of how we play and the stories we tell.”

That’s what I told my daughter just this morning when she wondered whether it was okay that she used a brown crayon to color “Coronation Elsa.”

So, how can you look at all you’ve heard from the hectic world of “do this” “don’t do that” marketing and shape these ideas to serve your own narrative? How can you say “thanks but no thanks” to the glass slipper that may fit for the night but will end up causing you to trip and break your neck?

For more insights into how to plot your own business destiny subscribe to The Sovereign Standard, the weekly publication for entrepreneurs seeking to share their message, create a livelihood, and enjoy some everyday creative magic.