How a Humanities student learned to apply marketing principles to her life

“Wow, that is the most capitalist thing I’ve ever heard. In my entire life,” my friend said as I excitedly explained to her my new success with the Pomodoro method. “Figuring out the exact amount of time a human needs for a break so that they can keep working.”

I laughed. “Fair enough…”

But, “capitalist” as it may be, using the Pomodoro method in my work day has really helped me a lot. Not just as I - as my friend believes - slave away for the man and sell my soul to the corporate rat race, but it’s also given me a sense of control over my own productivity. A feeling of empowerment, that I can break down overwhelming tasks and get them done.

I no longer feel like a victim of my to do list.

Before March 2020, I was a teacher and an English literature student. However, when the pandemic hit I lost my job. I hadn't finished school yet, but rent needed to be paid so I set out to find a new job. I had never relished the idea of working in a tech company, but it seemed like that would be my best bet considering it looked like we would be working from home for the foreseeable future.

I started working for Alpe in May of 2020 as a writer for our audio courses. Pretty soon after I started, I was assigned to work on our Mastering Marketing course. This was actually pretty funny, because I had always had a very strong natural aversion to the concept of marketing.

I thought of it as something dishonest, inauthentic. Something which manipulated people into spending money they didn’t have. My entire impression of the world of marketing could probably be summed up by that line in Mad Men when Don Draper said, “What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons.”

However, that show - excellent as it is - was all I really knew about the subject. I would certainly never have dreamed of trying to apply marketing principles to my own life in the slightest.

However, as I started researching and writing the course with Dr. Marcel Cohen, I began to notice that I started to see ways I could apply marketing principles to my life more and more.

Some of the ways I noticed I was applying marketing principles to my life were things I had already been doing naturally. But I also realized that I could apply marketing principles to my life in other areas, areas that I had been struggling with. Pain points in my life that I refused to see just needed a bit of marketing makeover.

I’ll show you what I mean.

Applying marketing principles to life through food

I’ll start with one way marketing principles already applied to my life.

I’ve always loved to experiment with food. My favorite dishes to explore are simple earthy foods, free from processed ingredients or animal products.

And while I might get excited by a simple bowl of cooked beans, I’ve learned that most people don’t. And that’s where marketing comes in. Beans definitely need some help in this area.

Those of us who like to cook for others are constantly applying marketing principles to our lives and our dinner parties.

Applying Marketing principles to food: garnish
Veggie curry with cilantro, courtesy of

Sprinkling cilantro on top of a bowl of vegan chili is marketing. So is adding some jalapeno slices as garnish. And don’t get me started on avocados. Avocados are the marketing powerhouses of vegan food. They work harder than any of us.

Applying marketing principles to your life in this way isn’t lying. There’s nothing inauthentic about it. You’re simply helping something that is already good become more appealing to others.

Applying marketing principles to life in social situations

However, it turned out that I could apply marketing principles to my life in other, bigger ways.

My whole life, since I was really young, I’ve been called things like “quirky” and “authentic”. People ask my advice when they want “a different opinion.” They declare that it’s so cool that I’m “not like everyone else.”

None of this stuff is intrinsically bad - at all - but there was a time that it was concerning to me. I was just being myself, but people always seemed to think I was trying to be different from everyone else. What if I came across a situation where I wanted to just fit in?

Writing about marketing was the first time I really thought about the fact that the way we present ourselves to the world is absolutely a choice. Researching and writing about segmentation, an example of a marketing principle that applied to my life, helped me frame the new thoughts I was having on the subject.

In Lesson 4 of Alpe’s Mastering Marketing course, Dr. Cohen explains that segmentation is a tactic marketers use to be able to customize their product on a large scale. This is accomplished by dividing the customer base into different groups, based on their needs and preferences. Then the marketer can make adjustments to the product and tailor it differently to each group.

Dr. Cohen explains how companies divide their population into segments:

Each company chooses the variable that best explains the different needs in their population that are relevant for their product. In other words, jeans companies observe that the difference between men and women is more relevant (we use the term salient) to marketing their product than, say, the differences in business experience or political affiliation.

Well, as I was writing I realized that this marketing principle applied to my own life as well.

Knowing who you’re talking to and tailoring your message to them is a big part of controlling how you present yourself to others.

For example, if I’m sitting in a group of people who are discussing how their ideal vacation is to be served Pina Coladas on a beach, I don’t have to jump in and tell them that my ideal vacation is volunteering on an off the grid farm.

I can, if I want to. But if I do, I’m choosing to present myself in a certain way to a certain group of people. And because I know that it was my choice, I’m less likely to be taken aback when they laugh and say, “Classic Tess…”

This realization was like the Pomodoro method. I don’t have to use it all the time, but when I do it gives me a sense of control over an area where I didn’t feel control before.

So, segmentation was another way I found I could apply marketing principles to my own life.

Applying marketing principles to life through activism

But marketing affected more than just new tactics for dealing with social situations. I also was able to apply marketing principles to my life in a political sense.

When I first moved to Jerusalem, where I live now, the Prime Minister was in the process of being indicted. There were enormous protests outside his residence every single night, which just so happens to be 10 minutes away from where I live.

Protests, political actions, really politics in general were never really my thing. Any anxiety I felt over injustice or inequality in my immediate area, I addressed by volunteering - usually through teaching which I saw as more substantial than protesting. Sign waving and shouting just wasn’t my thing.

So being right in the thick of one of the longest ongoing political protests in Israel’s history was definitely new to me. And powerful. One night, 10,000 Israelis showed up. And not all of them were protesting against Bibi Netanyahu. Lots of smaller and more niche groups came to voice their own outrage over other things happening in the country.

Standing in Paris Square, in the thick of it all, you could see signs boasting slogans of many of Israel’s political and social justice groups. Groups promoting better care for Holocaust survivors, demanding an equal army draft, against military action in the West Bank, against house demolitions, against corruption in Parliament, rising rent prices, etc. It seemed like all many of the issues in this small country were represented in this one, larger protest.

Throughout it all, I couldn’t help but think that a protest is marketing principles applied to real life like nothing else. In Lesson 6 of Mastering Marketing, Marcel discusses the marketing mix, or the four tools every marketer has in their arsenal.

He talks about the marketing tools of product, price, promotion, and place. Although product and price are less relevant to protests, promotion and place are crucial. At most protests, people aren’t sitting down for a nuanced discussion of the cause you’re promoting. So, the place you choose to hold your protest and the promotion - the signs you’re holding and your chants - are the only way to get your message across.

Today I have a more generous view of protests. I think it’s because I’ve started applying marketing principles to my own life, in the sense that I appreciate the art of broadcasting the message you want to be broadcasting. The art of it and the challenge of it.

These are just a few examples, but applying marketing principles to my own life has certainly changed the way I approach things. The principles and foundations may have been codified in the business world, but they do tell a certain truth about how all of us interpret and interact with the world around us.

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