How marketing hooked me when I turned 40

By: Abby Breckenridge

How marketing hooked me when I turned 40

I’ve been a marketing consultant in one form or another since the summer of 2007, so I’ve had ample time to field cocktail-party reactions to my profession. On the whole, people aren’t that interested in talking about it—they’d much rather talk to my architect husband about that new library they love than piece through a messaging strategy with me—but when they do speak up their comments are consistent. Non-marketers generally believe that marketing a) is evil, and b) has no effect on them personally. This is when I throw my head back in evil marketing laughter.

As a marketer, of course, my opinions are quite different. I think marketing is only evil some of the time, and successful much of the time. I would have gone through two pregnancies without the best maternity basics if they hadn’t tracked me down on social media, and I have no idea how we would have chosen our HR software if no one had explained its unique benefits.

Definitely successful—and slightly evil—is marketing from the $128B skincare industry. Most of the time it’s designed to make women feel badly about their skin. I used to just shrug off their ads as unrealistic representations of women, but ever since I turned 40 I haven’t been able to shake them as easily.

Just days after my birthday I found myself clicking through headlines like “Drink up and glow,” texting my girlfriend to ask if I should be using an oil-based cleanser, and wanting to learn more about the benefits of alpha and beta hydroxy acids. I’ve applied more face masks in the last 9 months than I have in the rest of my life combined!

How had this drugstore-lotion-using woman been seduced by the anti-feminist engine? What I’ve come to realize is marketing is only one piece of the puzzle. Those confidence-crushing ads inevitably combine with all the other stories out there, from friends, coworkers, and the news. But just as we’re all influenced by stories from many directions, we’re also influencers—contributing to the stories of those around us.

Someone recently said to me that positivity is like perfume on the brain—it’s enchanting and doesn’t hang around for long. Negativity is what gums us up. Let’s be the perfume, shall we?