What is marketing?

April 13 2021

When I changed industries — from social work to advertising — I was skeptical. Why would an international branding agency want to hire me, a M.S.W. (social work) graduate from Columbia?

They did, and here’s why:

Empathy.

They knew I could question: How to analyze behavior and communities, how to look for factors that contribute to the way in which someone sees the world; how to start conversations to learn how people see themselves.

This is marketing.

As part of my social work degree, I had two clinical internships. For the second, I was placed in the counseling clinic of an all-girls college. My experiences prior to this was with drug and alcohol addicts, youth on probation, middle school students. Yet now I was playing the role of therapist in a clean office, listening to educated young women talk about their anxieties and frustrations.

These women had resources. They had money and options and opportunities. Yet their worries were the same as those kids on probation and the middle schoolers who walked up flights of dark stairs in Section 8 housing to go home.

Will he/she love me?
Will my family be proud of me?
What should I do for work?

Since then I’ve worked with Buddhist monks and young leaders in Nepal. Our yearnings are largely the same, but our resources are not.

If we fail to recognize these differences as marketers, we have no chance of winning.

I believe we can use this same awareness to create incredible marketing campaigns — and a better world.

Which audience will I care about?
Who do I want to impact?
Which traits do I want to develop?