“I Hate Marketing” and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

Listen to the audio version. This essay is also available as a podcast.

This is my 13th year in business and, as I’ve trudged and tumbled through the past four thousand four hundred-ish days, I think most everyone who’s crossed my digital doorstep has said the same thing:

“I hate marketing.”

Whether your business days run into the thousands or just a few dozen, one of the first lessons you learn is that:

The customer is most definitely NOT always right.

But if we’re doing our jobs, we learn to hold space for the right to be wrong. Because, deep down, we know we’re all alike: wrong until just the right time.

It’s a blessing to be the fork in someone’s road.

And when most business owners come my way, they have earned their “I hate marketing!” badge of dishonor.

(In many cases, they have paid for it, too. In more than four thousand four hundred ways.)

The House of RKA lays beyond the Boulevard of Broken DickFunnels. Most people don’t find me until they’ve at least been there first.

Some do the whole Double Dicker bus tour, past the Hawk of Fame, Pay to Play Avenue, and the I Did It And You Can, Too! Scar Pits.

Little known fact: if your business makes it off the boulevard in one piece, you get a swag bag with one of those "I almost lost my life savings to a life coach and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" numbers. (One size absolutely does not fit at all.)

Grey t-shirt with the text "I almost lost my life savings to a life coach and all I got was this lousy t-shirt"

So, like I said, the folks who find their way to me have earned their “I hate marketing!” badges.

But they’re still mistaken.

As mistaken as I was in deferring to them all these years, crafting what feels like four thousand four hundred hours of content to speak to this, the wrong pain point.

But remember! I’m just like them.

Wrong until just the right time.

My time, it seemed, was around the four thousand day mark.

Almost a year ago exactly, when I set fire to The House of RKA and, inadvertently, the entire life I had built around it.

You know what I should have seen coming a mile away but didn’t?

That. This. My breakdown. My breakup. My break.

Not my branded breakdown as I wandered DickFunnel Boulevard in nothing but a robe — that I certainly saw coming — but the breakdown I experienced in my ability to perform the brand of believing in branding. (At least as it had been preached to me.)

Speaking of robes…

Saw This Coming A Mile Away: book cover with RKA in yellow hat, making fun of life coaches
The book cover I shared when I announced my divorce, both from my husband and business as usual, Saw This Coming A Mile Away

My body of work — the stones I laid on the path to woo those with “I hate marketing!” badges into working with me — were a lot like the last remnants of my faith.

Devout Free Schoolers may remember that in one of my former lives, I went to seminary just long enough to learn the bare amount of Greek you need to realize you don’t believe what it’s telling you.

That’s another one I should have seen coming a mile away. (Or nine thousand miles away, actually. I went to seminary in Sydney, Australia.)

In the months before seminary began, I pored over every page of the Bible, gripping the pages with white knuckles, as if I could literally squeeze belief out of it.

I wanted to believe so badly, I decided to make a career out of it.

And when I predictably lost my faith while searching for it in seminary, I did what any good (almost) pastor does...

I went into marketing.

(Okay, there was a pit stop in law school. But that’s a mile away for another day.)

Fast forward a few thousand days and you can see history repeating itself:

My body of work was me trying to talk myself into my job, while ultimately talking myself out of it.

And this made me angry.

So angry my rage lit the fire that forced me into the wilderness.

Yes, I was angry at all the stars lining DickFunnel Boulevard.

But my real anger was, yes, ughhhhhh — Scooby Doo moment — at myself.

The call was indeed coming from inside the house I had just burned down.

Blond woman sits in pew at church in front of cross

I made a lot of compromises while white knuckling the Business Bible.

I preached the gospel of entrepreneurship as a noble act in and of itself.

I parroted the parable of personal branding as the ultimate form of self-expression.

I crowed the commandments that some dude with a beard and a bulletproof coffee swore were the only way.

And I refused to question the underlying foundations of this profession and who/what it ultimately serves because I’m no blasphemer!

To doubt the testimonies and testimonials of the Hashtag Blessed would be to betray myself as a businesswoman and become a traitor to my fellow girl bosses.

So when the time to stop being wrong was right, my white knuckles tore open and bled, and I howled in anger and pain.

For recruiting people into this church — knowing it only wanted our tithes, and didn’t give a fuck about our souls.

For coveting my neighbor’s house — despite knowing they rented it on AirBnB.

For wanting the clergy’s approval — and for earning it, in many cases.

For yoking my own “brand name” with theirs — because that’s what the eBook tells you.

When Marie Forleo stood on stage at her “Everything Is Figureoutable Experience" in New York City on September 9, 2019, I had convinced myself I was there as a researcher, to observe her audience, to see her make marketing history.

I wasn’t a B Schooler.

I didn’t follow her because I believed in her message. I followed her as a student of marketing and a cultural critic.

But when she commanded her congregation of thousands to visualize their “figureoutable” dream with her,

“Close your eyes and picture that one thing you want to figure out tonight!”

Signeage from marie forleos everything is figureoutable event hammerstein ballroom new york september 2019
Signeage from the "Everything Is Figureoutable" Experience on September 9, 2019 at The Manhattan Center's Hammerstein Ballroom, marketed as "if a Beyoncé concert and a TED Talk had a baby, then threw a block party."

I am ashamed to admit, I pictured being in her shoes.

I wanted what she had.

I had absorbed the girl boss dream by some sort of spiritual osmosis, whether I liked it or not.

Even if I built much of my own brand messaging around the idea that women shouldn’t want to copy Marie Forleo, I somehow had no way of envisioning anything but the sermons she — and others like her — gave about what it means to “build a life you love.”

In Marie’s world, even your soul’s purpose must be branded — easily called up in an instant when someone demands you meditate on command. (Corresponding dollar amount not optional.)

It’s the girl boss equivalent of “DO YOU EVEN LIFT, BRO?”

“DO YOU EVEN FUNNEL, GIRL BOSS?!”

I wrote this masterpiece in burying your feelings (my first viral post and the article that put me on Forleo’s radar to begin with) in 2016 for myself.

It was a prophecy, dammit! It said, “This is not the path. This is not the way.”

And then I spent the next five years apologizing through my content.

A string of sorries for my inability to take a stand about what I knew to be true about business and branding and the business of branding ourselves.

RKA wearing a Marie Forleo "No more bullshit excuses!" t-shirt in September 2019
I came, I saw, I got the t-shirt.

I think most breakdowns and breakups are this way — a break with the ability to perform a role and continue to lie to ourselves and those around us.

It was finally the right time to stop wronging myself.

During FREE SCHOOL, I vowed to “burn down the rules of online business to see what was left standing.”

I’ve told you before that when you burn it all down, the only thing left standing is your self.

Thank God.

Fuck the t-shirt, I’m beyond blessed to have escaped The Boulevard of Broken DickFunnels with enough of my self left to confess what I knew all along:

Business won’t save us.

And this leads me back to where I started today.

The idea that marketing is the devil.

I wooed many a weary wayfarer to the The House of RKA with the promise that I could help them swap their “I hate marketing!” badge for something less bitter.

But when you learn the language of business, you realize that badge has been mistranslated.

“I hate marketing!” is what we say when we’re too afraid to admit:

THE REAL ENEMY IS THE CHURCH OF CAPITALISM.

Pyramid of the Capitalist System, 1911

See, before you start your own business — and join the capitalist clergy — your relationship to marketing and moneymaking within this system is like that of a once-a-week Christian.

You show up and mouth the hymns and jingles, all the while secretly wondering what’s for lunch.

You repeat after the pastors and the marketing ministers, deferring to their cassocks and copywriting, signs they must know better than you.

You don’t bother yourself with questioning the truth. You just have faith. Because everything is easier that way.

But when you go into business for yourself, you have to learn the language of capitalism yourself.

You begin to doubt.

You start to lose faith.

Yet, not knowing any other way (or truth or life), you white knuckle it.

You double your tithes. You surround yourself with believers. You convince yourself that your growing doubts are signs the devil’s got you — and you nickname him “Limiting Beliefs.”

And, before you know it, you’re in one of those massive secular cathedrals, where white people sing hip hop — let’s call it Hammerstein Ballroom — chanting “Everything is figureoutable,” with tears streaming down your face as you raise your hands to the heavens and manifest millions in the name of all that is holy.

And ohhhh do you manifest them alright.

For the coach who collects the offering plate.

“Surely you can figure it out,” she says, peering down at you from the pulpit.

And you have no choice but to believe her. Because everyone else is crying her name, thanking her for setting them free.

Marie Forleo's Everything is figureoutable experience, Hammerstein Ballroom, September 2019

You know how it goes: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit your email list…” Something like that?

It took me almost 13 years to realize...

When entrepreneurs say, “I hate marketing,” what we really mean is, “I hate an economic system that forces me to act like an evangelist for my own cult of personality.”

When we say, “I hate marketing,” what we really want to say is, “I hate the fact that, within capitalism, it’s not enough to be good at what you do.”

If you’re not good at selling what you do, it doesn’t matter what the nice smelling preacher with big beautiful Jersey hair says, absolutely nothing is figureoutable.

When we say, “I hate marketing,” we have it backwards. The truer statement is, “Marketing hates me.”

The marketplace doesn’t want what’s best for us.

It wants what’s best for itself.

Did you know, for example, that while the world burns and COVID rages into its third year, Stanford researchers have created a toilet that can recognize you based on your butthole? It’s called an “analprint” and I could have gone my whole life without ever hearing about that.

Hell, the world could have gone an eternity without anal recognition. Meanwhile, sea levels rise, poverty deepens, and profound loneliness abounds.

During FREE SCHOOL, a common critique I heard through the grapevine was:

“I’m sick of hearing Rachael complain. Why can’t she give us the solution?”

After four thousand four hundred-ish days in this game, I know one thing is right — that is the wrong question.

If you seek a street preacher to sell you The Secret, you can find one on every corner of the Internet.

But the concept that any one of us has The Truth in our back pocket is what formed the problems so many were sick of hearing me “complain” about.

In the capitalist catechism, the individual entrepreneur — the thought leader, the guru, the life coach — is our savior.

In reality, we can only band together — not buy now — to achieve that better world we seek.

It took me four thousand four hundred-ish long days and dogged nights of becoming an expert for me to wake up and realize I know absolutely nothing.

And yet, miraculously, when two or more of us gather, we may just be able to figure everything out.

Most importantly, what do you think?

And what can we think up together?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Until then,

Peace be with you...

 

 

 

p.s. Sick of business newsletters that have all The Answers™? Well, I've got nothing but questions. For more marketing muckraking and brand strategy gone wild, sign up for my emails here: 

Rachael Kay Albers

Rachael Kay Albers is a creative director, business comedian, and brand strategist gone wild. She writes and performs about branding, pop culture, tech, and identity. When she’s not muckraking about marketing, Rachael runs RKA ink, a reinvention studio and branding agency for businesses that burn the rulebook. She's also on Instagram a lot.

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