Self Expression and Marketing in 2015

Is it Narcissism or Self Expression Fueling Modern Marketing

Content marketing is a buzzword these days. Although, even as inundated as we all are with images, videos, selfies, etc... the fact is this form of expressive marketing is really still in it's infancy. Just wait a couple of years because there are millions more people due to come online over the next decade, which means it's going to be harder than ever to rise above the digital noise we all face and be seen.

As a product of Generation X I must admit that I am caught between the ideals of two generations. The generation before me, and even some Gen-X'ers would probably consider todays Millennial selfie culture somewhat narcissistic. But, is it narcissism that is fueling our social culture, and marketing that inherently comes with it, or is it self expression?

It took me a while to grasp this concept if I am being honest with myself. Truth be told, I didn't understand the early selfie with girls doing fish lips and friends capturing horse eyed photos of themselves that didn't really make them look attractive or smart by any means. Yet, the more photos they posted per day of them being silly, the more likes, followers, etc... they seemed to accumulate. Then, there was the fashion blogger movement, which is gaining strength by the day, in which people were sharing their own sense of personal style. Selfies at work once again with many bloggers reaching tens of thousands of viewers, and building entire businesses based solely on their outfit of the day... At first, I found that a little strange, but then it dawned on me... This is a new age, and by far and in large this is not narcissism at play. Rather it is self expression, and it's truly fantastic that there are platforms to share our lives, and our loves.

Self expression is a very important part of modern marketing. Today, whether you are selling a camera, a photograph, a service, clothing, or food the products you offer as a brand must be more than statistics, numbers, specs, or reviews. Rather, your brand needs a personality. Today you are selling yourself now more than ever, and it is important to be on board with this marketing trend. Past generations, and even my own, relied on long term credentials, degrees, and awards to sell ourselves. For centuries, monarchs, politicians, and dignitaries etc... hired painters to create portraits that made them appear as larger than life beings like gods or kings on the battlefield or political chambers. Their portrait would be an idealistic version of who they wanted the public to believe they were. Brands and personalities have managed to do the same thing for decades following in the footsteps of the old way of thinking. They created an ideal version of who they are in the public eye. However, social media is rapidly changing all of that. The modern consumer is more interested in who you are on a daily basis, and if they can relate to you on a higher level. What is more relatable than imperfection? As mentioned earlier the "selfie" is one example of how imperfection = transparency = authentic marketing. Sharing that you are human, can laugh at yourself, and/or that you are comfortable in your own skin is an important part of selling yourself in this modern age.

When we started re-inventing the Together In Style website, we knew we wanted to tell stories and share our expertise where we knew we were fit to. As artists we also have personal projects, and dream up ideas that paying clients haven't come to us for as of yet. So, it's a place we can practice, play, learn, and share our own lives and ideas with transparency. Separate from our photography and video website, which needs to be focused, Together In Style can be anything and everything. We've dedicated our lives to capturing the life and style of others, yet when we look back on our own life we simply don't have a lot of photographs or videos of us, or our family because we always seem to be behind the camera. One day we decided we were going to start practicing what we preach, and we now shoot endless amounts of 4K video of us at work and at play. We pass the camera around, mount it in the car as a dash cam, and find creative ways to capture just about everything. Now that we have all of this footage, it would be a shame not to share it, and Together In Style has become a way for us to do just that. It is a place of self expression, filled with stories that we are part of.

As of yet, there really hasn't been a social platform for storytelling. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ fall short as they merely support the concept of the status update. We love them for what they are, but while social, it really doesn't allow anyone to elaborate or combine great design, photographs, and videos. That is about to change as there are a few apps and blog platforms now tackling the photo-story social network concept, but they aren't as ideal as we would like just yet. While story driven, and social, you really can't create your own personality or identity to the degree we would prefer. One great example of this concept is, and another example is Storehouse. We've explored both, and love many of the features both have to offer. We are interested to see how they will evolve and grow.

I anticipate this trend is not only going to continue, but that it will explode and be the next big marketing trend. As cell phones get better and better with the ability to create high quality photographs and videos, storytelling is going to have a high quality breakthrough on every platform imaginable. Brands will need to harness this breakthrough by generating relatable content and positioning themselves with personality. Past successes, specs, awards, degrees, and numbers are becoming meaningless in a world where people just want to relate to a brand. The modern consumer is more fascinated by what you are up to now, and in the moment, rather than the notches on your belt. I see creative content marketing, through high quality stories, as one of the next big waves to ride. Although storytelling is remarkably time consuming, at least you are telling your own story through bold self expression, and as I have learned it's actually quite liberating to be imperfect even in the public eye.

5 Tips For Embracing Self Expression Marketing...

1. Be Authentic

Instead of trying to create a self portrait that makes you look larger than life, be relatable. It's far easier, more believable, and is really what we all want to see in the brands we buy into.

2. Don't Be Afraid Of Imperfection

Leave retouching and Photoshop at the door. Imperfection is what makes you relatable. If you follow us on Instagram, Twitter, etc..., you will probably notice that we don't spend time over-retouching photographs.

3. Share From Behind The Scenes

The success of reality TV proves that consumers are just as interested, if not more, in life behind the scenes. The lifestyle of a brand and it's creators is just as important as the product itself.

4. Go Beyond The Status Update

Think of ways to share stories, whether in text, in photographs, or in videos. With everyone creating status updates, you need to take your brand higher, and story is the way to do it.

5. Do The Work

Content and stories take time to create, but in the long term it's an investment in yourself. You may not be able to see the big picture of how it can positively impact your business at first. You may not even be able to make sense of why you are spending so much time sharing free content, but the next logical steps appear when you take your first step and there are rewards at the top of the staircase.


Charles Maring is a photographer and filmmaker at Maring Visuals, and a co-host / creator of the Together In Style talk show.