And there's two sides in this marketing onslaught. There's the side that uplifts and makes us strive for our better selves, and the side that plays on our fears and insecurities.
The thing is, I've participated in both, usually at the same time.
My not-so secret double life
I've been marketing online for 10 years. And in that time I've worked on both the Light and Dark Side of the marketing Force.
(You OK with the occasional Star Wars metaphor? Good stuff.)
Here's what I'm talking about...
If you know me at all you probably know that I have both a day job and a 'side-hustle'.
What I do at my day job, I'm truly proud of. In 2012 I transitioned from working in an employment centre resource room to a full-time content marketer and social media manager for the same company.
Five days a week for the last 6 years, I've written blog posts, filmed and cut videos, shared content on social media, built newsletter lists, advertised, and driven traffic (web and foot) to our centres across the province of British Columbia.
It's been a lot of fun, and I've been able to help a lot of people find our centres, access our services, and get jobs.
This year, our province achieved a record low 4.3% unemployment rate. Now, I was only a teeny tiny part of that improvement. But in that job, my work as a marketer makes a positive difference in people's lives. That feels good.
OK, now for the Dark Side.
Since before I started the content marketing job, I've been trying to use internet marketing tactics to 'make money online'. It's a common dream, and one I fell for hard.
The desire to earn income from my computer has led me into places I regret - doing things that, in hindsight, I'd rather not have done.
- Teaching people how to spam Instagram
- Stealing ideas from Black Hat forums to turn them into products for sale
- Ignoring Google Adwords' Terms of Service, running disallowed ads anyway, and getting my account banned (I still don't have it back)
- Driving tens of thousands junk traffic hits to junk Blogger blogs to cash in on Adsense revenue.... and getting my Adsense account banned (I still don't have that one back either)
- Creating fake female dating profiles in order to lead unwitting men to complete CPA offers or buy things I'd earn a commission from
- Promoting 'easy cash systems' (no such thing) that usually involved a direct sales/network marketing/quasi-pyramid/ponzi business model
- Using other marketers' 'review' testimonials on my sales pages - instead of real customers who bought and used the product
- Promoting low-ticket, low-value, low-content affiliate offers I knew would never actually help anyone... because I'd make a commission
- Putting the needs of affiliates over the needs of customers, including lying on sales copy in order to make more sales
And I'm sure I could think of more, but you get the idea.
A pain in the brain, a bite in the butt
Now, you could think some of what I've done is dodgy, even borderline unethical. Or even outright scammy, shitty behaviour. And I agree. It was.
So why did I keep doing it?
Because even though I was building a real marketing infrastructure every weekday for my job, I still thought I could 'get away' with shortcuts and cheap marketing tactics every night in my side-hustle.
But my brain, and soul, finally told me differently. And at this point, you may have already guessed the end of the story.
See, there's this psychological state, a thing called cognitive dissonance. It's what that happens when you regularly do or say something that goes against a deeply held value.
You become very.... uncomfortable.
Basically, acute cognitive dissonance causes 'brain pain.' For me, I ended up wracked with self-doubt, second guessing myself, even bouts of low-grade depression.
I put myself through nearly 10 years of cognitive dissonance trying to make money online with borderline scammy tricks and business models.
Why? Because I struggle with feelings of self-worth, and I thought making more money would cure it. And when those two things are pitched against each other, you'll never be able to earn enough.
So basically, I spent my day building up internet marketing skills, only to abuse them in the evening, chasing a false dream that would never be satisfied.
But that wasn't the only reason for my cognitive dissonance.
The other reason, probably the part that caused the most distress, is I'm a very emotional and empathic person.
See, it didn't matter the level of shady behaviour - if I knew I was being dishonest in my marketing, even a little bit, I felt it. I imagined the disappointment my customers would feel, or how frustrated they'd get when I broke their trust... and it really bugged me.
So what to do? Well it took me 10 years of frustration and pain before I woke up, before I let myself see what was in front of me all along.
Luke, I am my own father
It took me a decade to get it. That what needed to change was ME.
Because I can already 'do' internet marketing. I can help people with their problems. At my job, I've built a good sized online marketing business.
So why not stop selling out, honour my true feelings, and build my own?
Why not take my skills, stories, experience, values, and personality - and show others how to do what I've done?
And best of all, show people that they don't have to go to the Dark Side to have success?
A business that anyone can be proud of.
What if you did that, too? What if you could stop chasing short-term, possibly shady internet marketing tricks and tactics, and build a business you were proud of?
Wouldn't you be super excited - a bit like the Ewoks at that bonfire party?
So that's why I'm here. That's where I've been, and that's where I'm going.
The path ahead is long, but absolutely worth it. I've seen the Dark Side. It's time to commit to the Light.