I’m going to be real with y’all: my boss told me to write this. And not in the way that technically she told me to keep Rock Candy Media’s blog awesome and informative, resulting in my 2-4 blogs a week. She gave me the title and said, go from there. So here’s me, going.
Now, you can read this in one of four ways. Way 1: As a blog from a Zillennial (barely age 25, perfectly too young to totally vibe with Millennials and too old to totally vibe with Gen Z) consumer. Way 2: As an article from a Zillennial brand builder with 7 years experience, startup and firm alike. Way 3: As a disembodied voice garnering SEO and clicks for a capitalist overlord.
Or Way 4: a combination of all of the above: A Zillennial who knows her buying power, uses it, knows how she got convinced to use it, and, like anyone else, works for someone. Whether you’re here for the fun, the info, or the generation-demographic research, I prefer you go with Way 4.
9-Year-Old Existentialism & Ethics
I’ve battled with the ethics of communication ever since I started writing (circa 2004, age 9). I was the type of kid who (knowing now it’s depression and anxiety) had intrusive thoughts ever since I was a toddler and didn’t know what they were. Why would my brain repeat something so mean about me or someone else or the world? I remember having anxiety attacks about long division homework one day and about death and religion the next. In writing, I could control that more, and humans love control. In writing, I could hear the jumble, and straighten it out slowly. I could think about all of it and unravel it on paper, one word at a time.
Like most written-word-loving romantic people will tell you, I fell in love with the rhythm. Cadence danced with syntax, meaning danced with vocabulary. Little nooks and crannies appeared where I could secretly insert my own personal meanings and intimation. Naturally, I excelled in advanced placement writing and literature classes throughout school, and when college hit, I majored in journalism.
[To get it out of the way, journalism was not what it sounds like traditionally. It was a Bachelor of Science, and I designed it to involve computer science, design, writing, videography, PR, psychology, anthropology, and more. Essentially, the best way to describe it is a degree in communicating effectively with different people across different mediums.]
This is where the ethics battle begins to make more sense. I could make people believe what I said. From a beautiful standpoint, I could write poetry and articles about mental health, and KNOW that I was reaching people and making them understand more, and believe in their own power to get more mentally healthy. From a writing standpoint, I never stopped acing essay and speaking assignments because, whatever the goal was, I knew how to use words and the medium to make it clear, efficient, and effective. I could sway people’s desires, beliefs, assumptions, and outlook on a topic, or the world. That’s a lot of power. And this is just the setup of where I’m actually going in this blog.
Where I’m All In
As a brand strategist at a brand naming (read: identity) agency, it’s my job to make brands and businesses come across to people in a way that makes the business most likely to make money. I design words on a page (read: email, flyer, website, Facebook ad, Pin, Instagram shop, product description, taglines, etc.) in a way that convinces someone to buy something.
I know what you’re thinking– what happened to my ethics? [Well, for starters, no one can be fully ethical under capitalism. We know this. If that sounds ridiculous to you, either I’m going to need you to Google those two words together (ethical & capitalism) and have a look-see, or we have different definitions of ethical. If it’s the latter, you’re probably thinking of ethics within the current world system (political, economic, social, all of them) rather than true ethics: moral principles that govern your behavior. Outside of current rules, outside of expectations, outside of money.] Anyways:
So what happened to my ethics? Luckily, I’ve been able to accept (and keep) only jobs whose ethics I agree with. I write things that make people spend money, but the product or service is never fake, or even partially disappointing. I never have to lie or beat around the bush. And with Rock Candy Media, as you’ll see our non-traditionalism on any of the “People Don’t Believe My Boss Exists” installments on the blog, we only work with people willing to be raw and real with us. And we’ve kicked people (employees and clients alike) to the curb if we found out they were being shady (in any way — with their sourcing, with their employees, with their social channels, anything). Ethically, I’m okay with the work I do because it is honest. Even though people can choose not to read, to click away, to not spend, even if they do spend, it isn’t based on anything not-real. Simple as that.
So, in marketing matters and branding, where my writing skills found a living wage, I’m all in.
Consequently, Where I’m Out
This part is easier. In growth marketing communications, I’ll feel a quite literal pain in my soul if I ever help perpetuate a business or brand that builds off ripping people off. In fact, I won’t work for a boss whose ethics lie, truthfully, against mine. The more power they have in making things happen that go against my ethics, the less and less I’ll be willing to have anything to do with them. (Insert boilerplate statement about how no one is perfect, ignorance is an opportunity to learn, etc… I only have one article here). Because I know my power and my worth– I know exactly how much I help them and their business by being involved, and I have the power to put that power elsewhere.
After all, if a lot of people were forced to compromise their ethics, mental & physical health, just to keep food on the table, eventually you’ll have a lot of angry people talking about change……..
We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident
So let’s sum up in a way that harkens fully back to this marketing and branding business. In the end, if you’ve not a philosophical bone in your body (royal You, not you specifically, don’t get defensive), I am nothing but a Zillennial consumer. Given what I’ve told you up until now, some things about my demo/psychographic will make more sense, hopefully.
To sum up, I’m painfully aware. (Cue research on mental illness pervasiveness across the generations.) I’m painfully aware of my generation amongst others. I’m painfully aware of my power and lack thereof. I’m painfully aware of my every move; maybe that’s what makes me a good brand builder: I can also be all-too-aware of exactly what you should and shouldn’t do to reach your goals.
And if you’re in, you have to be in fully. You have to be all in to honesty, undisguise, truth-telling (not just lie-withholding), in admittance, and I’ll be all in too.
So if you’re in, so am I. And if you’re out, bye.