Marketing Spending on the Rise

The Wall Street Journal reports that “marketing budgets have risen to 9.5% of the total company revenue in 2022,” and this is a dramatic increase from 2021. The question is why the dip and now the increase. What are the fundamental factors driving the market? With rising inflation, the Fed attempting to avoid recession by raising interest rates on loans, a war raging in Ukraine, and the lingering and sputtering pandemic, this is a time of organizational regrouping and intellectual rethinking. 

One way of explaining the increase in spending is to attribute it to the opening of business after a long time of being forced to remain inactive. We spent two years without concerts, without public gatherings, and that took an incredible toll on many economic sectors. It is only natural that there is a strong desire to return to an active business climate. Marketing, as the public facing side of a business, is naturally how many brands will reveal their new direction.

What is more curious is that marketing dropped so much in 2021. It is common for businesses to reduce their marketing budget during a decrease in economic activity, due to how it is perceived as non-essential. Operations almost always take priority over advertising in a tough economy, but is that a best practice or is it merely a default reflex? 

In retrospect, the period of the shutdown was a marketing opportunity that was missed by many. People paid more attention to online communications than ever before in history. Additionally, marketing was one of the essential services that was allowed to continue even when so many other sectors were not.

If marketing is an essential service, and the mind share that leads to market share is often won through marketing, then it only makes sense to maximize your marketing opportunities whenever you can. There is no going back in business, only forward, but as we enter this new phase of our economic recovery marketing is going to become increasingly important.

E&J Branding: A New Podcast by Erin H. Lyman and Jake J. Thomas

Clout Farming

I met Erin H. Lyman last week for a portrait in the garden at SkinHappy in Monterey. I had been following her on Instagram as she is one of the most active movers and shakers in the Monterey Arts Scene. Even at a glance you could tell that she has the right stuff for a podcast. She knows what’s up.

Portraits and Podcasting

Every portrait session is like an interview in some way, but with Erin our conversation was interesting enough for me to want to start a podcast with her. I mentioned that I was interested in podcasting and she suggested that I visit a place in Monterey called The Shop. She knew they had a recording studio all set up, so I met her there and checked it out.

Engagement Pod

Erin spends her days and some of her evenings promoting artist and arts organizations around the Monterey County. In order to do this effectively, she has a network of people she interacts with. This is known as an engagement pod and it is an effective way to create traction for social media accounts trying to get a message out to the public. It also sounds like a party you would throw for dolphins. Through her network of people, she introduced me to Chris Powers at The Shop and now we have a podcast in the works.

Marketing and Art in the Digital Age

Our podcast is going to be about strategies for making and marketing art in today’s cultural and economic climate. We are going to be recording at The Shop in Monterey and episodes should be available on your favorite podcast platform, soon. I look forward to bringing you some entertaining and useful information through conversations with Erin H. Lyman!

Content Pillars and Purpose

Cannabis, Writing, Photography, Marketing, Art, Landscape, Ocean

Cannabis: I believe cannabis can do the greatest good for humankind immediately and in the long run. Worldwide legalization of cannabis will set the scales back towards justice and will restore some faith in the sincerity of the systems of governance. It is hard to trust anyone who is against cannabis. It’s like being against naps or being anti-mellow. You people are getting along too well! You must be stoned. What’s next? Cooking up some dank munchies? Crimes against culinary standards? Too much caramel sauce on the cereal? Not only do I believe that the side effects of cannabis are harmless, we all know they are beneficial to many people. Anyone struggling with loss of appetite or insomnia can regain control over vital parts of their health with the help of some quality cannabis. I think that more than the obvious advantages legal cannabis creates (tax revenue instead of criminal activity, for one) the main shift that legal cannabis will bring is a shift in tone. It will open up that beautiful space that only stoners know where there is a sense of innocence, a mellowing out of the harshest vibes, a sense that daily life is ok and that it really matters. Cannabis leads people on an introspective journey that leads to gardening and preserving tomatoes and that is a-ok. As a content pillar, I intend to write about cannabis to advocate for its use, to highlight brands that are doing good things, to interact with cannabis influencers, and to share stoner experiences.

Writing: Writing is thought given shape and refinement through the logic of composition and editing. We use the tools of composition to establish our thoughts on a topic and to express our opinions, ask questions and to share stories. Through editing, we revise both what we think and how we compose our ideas. Writing is the mysterious revelation of self. Instead of merely looking into a mirror, we have to slowly develop a sense of how what we think looks in the external world. Our thoughts are native to our experience, but the moment we externalize them and give them form through a composition, in the shape of an essay, we begin to see who we are. This gives us the ability to change what we think, and in the process to direct the development of our character. Writing gives us intellectual intentionality. Through writing, we are able to determine how to use the best of what we think to the advantage of those we wish to help. Writing about writing is important because thinking about thinking is important. It’s fundamental to improving your form. Strategizing about writing, coming up with prompts, working on exercises and having a dialogue about strategies and techniques keeps the ball in play. By paying attention to writing, we can improve our quality of thought, we can make better decisions, and we can help other people to find their direction and purpose. Language is uniquely human, and writing is the focused and deliberate use of language to express ideas. By writing, you become more human. You can both learn about who you are, discover how you want to be, and work on growing into the kind of human you respect and admire. Writing is our most powerful tool of self-analysis. When combined with the introspective tendency of cannabis consumption, writing can lead to breakthrough after breakthrough. 

Photography: Photography is my main visual mode of work, these days. I love video and painting, but I have been thinking about and practicing photography for the past fifteen years with a passion and dedication. Photography has helped me to grow, to give people valuable memories, to help promote businesses and to have amazing relationships. Studying photography was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The history of photography is so brief, but it has accelerated to such an impossibly enormous volume. Being thoughtful about photography both leads to making better photographs and to understanding the world of photography, but it is also a tool of introspection. You go out into the world to find subjects. You explore compositions with your camera. When you return to the studio to edit your photos, however, you are faced with some idea about yourself and your job is to present that to the world in a way they will find the most interesting. This can also lead you to understand things about yourself and about how the world feels about you. Like all meaningful growth that can be painful at times and pleasurable at others. 

Marketing: The future is going to have more marketers than ever. That is the logical conclusion of a workforce left with nothing but creativity and communication. With the advance of automation, people will increasingly need to become more adept at messaging and branding. While some people feel an aversion to sales, they don’t like being sold to, marketing can be much more than a pitch. It can be beautiful design, thoughtful writing and interesting research. Marketing can be useful to you and when it is, then it really works well. There is no escaping marketing. One common form of marketing you see is the marketing of no marketing which is essentially a business or person bragging that they are so good and so in demand that they don’t have to spend much on advertising or branding. It shows an ignorance about branding, though. That is marketing and branding: it is the branding of no marketing. We don’t need no stinking marketing marketing. Yes you do. We all need good marketing.

Art: The category of art as a separate sphere of concern from other forms of media will always be interesting to me and so I will always think and write about it for those who are interested in what I have to say about it. If art can be any media, then why not consider all media art? There are deep philosophical reasons for wanting a category of cultural production that defines itself differently than the rest of culture. There is something deeply generative about the category existing in the first place. It is an invitation to experiment, an ethos of innovation, a reputation for making things new. Art matters the same way freedom of speech matters. It is so fundamental to the way we think, even if not consciously, that it is almost impossible for us to see why it matters. Writing about art is an attempt to give us that perspective even if just for a moment to look behind the curtain at what the category of art is doing socially and culturally and why it matters.

Landscape: Being out in a natural setting, watching how the sun travels, moving through the landscape in a way where I understand the various textures on the trail, all of these things matter to me deeply. As a human animal, I crave a connection to the landscape. I want to know what is happening in the woods. I want to explore every creek and know every tree. Writing about the landscape is important because it can help us to remember our priorities in times that we are easily distracted by other things.

Ocean: The ocean connects us all. As the universal symbol of the unconscious, the ocean is the most dynamic and deep subject for humans to ponder. It is so dramatic and expressive, it demands a million artist pay attention at all times. I am one of them.

Teaching, Marketing and Leadership: Why Public Education is a Broken System

Education is one of the strange social contracts we are born into. We don’t get a choice. We have to go to school. It starts before we can possibly understand what it would even mean. School is where we learn about the social conditions that lead to school. Education is such an intrinsic part of the U.S. citizen’s experience of childhood that we don’t even question it. It is too close to us. It has become normalized. We have been culturally conditioned to believe in school.

Have we been lied to?

Education offers no guarantee of social inclusion or financial success. Anyone who does the work to really study and understand a subject will likely benefit from that education, but that is probably a very rare experience among the vastly wasteful and traumatic institution of public education, generally. For most people, school is the closest they will come to being in jail. 

If education was what it said it was, if schools and teachers were adequately funded, then people would be attracted to attend. The fact that we compensate teachers so minimally reveals something closer to the truth about the value of education. As it exists now, it is not worth as much as it should be, and it shows in the way teachers are rewarded. The secret truth is that education is a system that needs to be radically reconsidered and reformed to fit the world we are building. We need a technological revolution in education. We need to rethink how it is done.

When I was in graduate school and teaching at UCSC, there was this trend that was disturbing to a lot of people at the time. Students would evaluate the performance of their teacher at the end of the course and there was a general sense of entitlement and an attitude that is more typical of a customer than a student. The fact that the university is using graduate student labor to teach undergrads, however, is another example undervaluing education. It is a commodity, and it is sometimes a low budget production that is also incredibly expensive. 

Would it be better if we treated education like a business? It would be more honest. We would try harder. There is something about how our educational system is designed that takes the best from us and does not prepare us to succeed in any way, except through compliance. It teaches us the consequence of non-compliance. If school was a good system, it wouldn’t need to rely so heavily on the threat of punishment. 

And yet, school can be a great system. It can work really well for some people. When it is adequately resourced, education can be a thriving and vital culture. When I went to Lewis and Clark College, there was a lot of feeling of freedom. The educational resources were there for you. There was a 14:1 student to professor ratio. You went to dinner at your professor’s homes. It was an intimate experience.

I remember one of the best teachers I ever had, John Haugse, was a visiting painting instructor and he was giving us advice about applying to MFA programs. He said show up to the school on a Friday afternoon and see how busy it is. If the place is humming with activity and people have their hands dirty, then that’s a good sign. If it is quiet, the program is lackluster and won’t get you where you need to go.

Higher education is a gnarly careerist culture. The politics of academia are mind numbing. People are competing for positions of power. It is some strange cross between celebrity-based reality television like programming and pencil pushing accounting. A lot of it is just paperwork. But it is all highly political and therefore everything becomes politicized. You would think that there would be a meritocracy in education, but nepotism and relationships matter as much or more there than in other industries. 

The fallacious foundation of K-12 public education is that it is necessary, which prevents most educators from seeing it as a business. They see it as a utility and therefore do not take it as seriously. In higher education, at least, there is some sense that you have to compete to achieve status. The high school teacher has what power they have because the state gave it to them.

Here’s another way to look at it. In any college curriculum there will be some courses that are mandatory and some courses that are elective. Teaching a course that is a requirement is so much harder and less rewarding than teaching a course that is elective. When people choose to be there instead of having to be there they perform and behave so much better it is hard to describe. It is like the difference between being a prison guard or being the coach of a basketball team. An army of volunteers performs better than an army of conscripts.

What is the original sin of U.S. children that they need to endure 13 years of mandatory institutionalization? What crime did they commit? Why are we asking them to pay with so much of their valuable time? Why don’t people want to go to school? Why don’t they want to study the topics? We haven’t made the experience good enough for them to want to attend. We haven’t earned their attention. 

If we want education to become a better system, we would do well to look at why it relies on a system of punishments. What alternatives could we come up with that would engage with students on a level that would help them to thrive? How can we save our educational system?