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Holistic branding and marketing posts by Diana Chaplin.

 

Filtering by Category: Marketing

The Holistic Business Model: Big Picture Strategy Beyond Marketing

Diana Chaplin

I love the word holistic. Maybe it’s my history of working on the marketing team at Integrative Nutrition, or aiming to live my life in a balanced way, but holistic refers to the underlying essence of wholeness that we all unconsciously desire.

It also happens to be how any healthy system works.

Whether you’re a solo entrepreneur, a non-profit, or a mid-scale business, a system is what you’ve got. The question of whether it’s an effective one that has the right elements in place is likely the start of the process you can initiate to achieve wholeness, and ultimately see positive results.

The Holistic Business Model

You can find immense information online on basically any individual part of a business, but what’s often missing is the full context of how each of the various parts fit together. The big picture with the wide angle lens, at the center of which is your brand. That’s the point of relevance that ties everything together, like the hub of a wheel that gives meaning to each individual spoke in order for the whole thing to move forward.

Many think that your brand is a logo, or something to do with marketing. But I beg to differ, because your brand is really the core of your identity. It is the essence of who you are (as an individual or organization) and the more clarity you have in THAT, the easier everything else in the system will flow.

Now mind you, I’m not an “expert.” In fact, I feel that this word has been watered down to the point of triviality in a world where everyone is trying to be one. I have 10+ years of experience in marketing, sales, communications, and coaching, but I’m still learning. I’m telling you this not to downplay my own expertise but to say that this particular holistic business model is a work-in-progress. It may not be complete, and I invite you to comment if I’ve left something out because I wholeheartedly believe in co-creation and collaboration. That’s what systems thinking is all about, and I seek to exemplify learning and innovation with full participation.

So let’s get to it.

As mentioned, your brand is at the heart of the system. Everything revolves around your core identity. I elaborated on branding essentials in a previous post, but what I’ll say here is that investing in your brand is absolutely the best thing you can do for your business. It will be a long, hard road to clarity, one I liken to a vision quest because it will touch upon everything you thought you knew and demand that you reveal your innermost self. But that’s a good thing. And the result, ideally, is something clear, simple, and needed in the world. Something that can be stated in about 10 words or less and easily understood by the people you’re most trying to reach.

Here’s an example from an organization I support, the Biomimicry Institute:

“The Biomimicry Institute empowers people to create nature-inspired solutions for a healthy planet.”

Is it clear? I think so.

Is it simple? Yep, it’s just one short sentence.

Is it needed in the world? Oh hell yeah.   

From the core of this identity, they elaborate what that means on their website. They host sustainability-based design challenges, provide educational resources for classrooms, host a public resource site, have a consulting arm, and more. The point is that when you have a clear identity such as this, it is easy to explain what your business is all about, yet also leaves plenty of freedom and flexibility to experiment how that identity manifests in what the business does.   

Not only that, but it helps every single person within the organization understand the collective intention of what they’re all doing, and how the different roles contribute to that effort. When there’s a lack of clarity, at best people tend to disengage and not work to their full potential, and at worst they could actually be detrimental to the business.

Your brand should be useful, meaningful, and memorable.

It can inspire, entertain, invigorate, educate, motivate, or nurture, but ultimately it must make people feel something or become somehow better. Why? Because if your product or service doesn’t leave an impression that is positively meaningful, then you’ll be forgotten or ignored.

So let’s move on.

Once you’ve got your brand clarity figured out, it should permeate throughout your mission, message, products, relationships, and team, and by extension things like marketing strategy, customer experience, and acquisitions.

Mission ­– this is how you’re exemplifying your brand identity and the bigger vision of what you’re really trying to do in the world. For Lifeisgood.com it’s not selling T-shirts, it’s spreading optimism. They sell T-shirts to generate revenue for the business, but they also have a nonprofit kids foundation, share positive stories from all 50 states, and create media. Having a clear and simple mission opens up the ways in which the business can operate and flourish. Check out these conscious brands for inspiration. 

Message – this includes both internal and external messaging. By internal I mean the communications that happen with your team. Are they clear on the big picture of what this organization is trying to achieve? By external I mean anything that you publish, anywhere. Your core message should be consistent with your brand identity and your mission. It involves all marketing efforts, various pages on your website, advertising, blog posts, videos, social media posts, ebooks, and any other forms of content that you create. Be mindful about the words that you use so that they resonate with your audience. This is where it’s critical to have a copywriter, content strategist, and marketing manager who are able to see the big picture of the brand and bring that down to earth in the creation of cohesive messaging at every level.

Products – are you creating things that “walk the talk” of what your brand is all about? You’d be surprised at how often the values or mission of a brand is at odds with the products they actually make. I see this all the time in wellness-related products that use words like “natural” and even “organic” and have lots of green colors and leaves in their packaging, but then use all kinds of artificial ingredients and fillers in the actual composition of their products. We wouldn’t even know if it there weren’t laws stating ingredients have to be disclosed! The point is not to cheat your customers. Make sure your products are genuinely aligned with your brand message and identity. Make them as awesome as possible to truly serve your customers, and have integrity in what you’re creating. Without alignment here, your sales will suffer.

Relationships – this is really what success comes down to. Genuine relationships, built on trust and mutual benefit. Develop a relationship with your customers so you understand their experience, desires, and challenges. Likewise, reach out to potential partners whose mission is aligned and complementary to yours. Be honest with investors, affiliates, consultants, distributors, and anyone else who’s a part of your business network. The more you create opportunities to connect with these individuals the more you’re nurturing the seeding ground for innovation, collaboration, and success.

Team – your team is the staff, whether it’s full or part time employees, freelancers, VA’s, or consultants, and the founder. The founder is a leader of the team, but should also be an open and accessible part of the team. It is critical for everyone on the team to be clear on the mission, and fully informed to speak clearly to customers, ask the right questions, create design and web experiences that speak to the target audience, and of course, be proud and purposeful in the work they do. Every team member should believe 100% in the heart of the brand identity. If they do, they will bring their absolute best selves to the table, and that’s good for business.

What did I leave out here? Plenty!

Service, values, loyalty, diversity, wisdom, leadership, strategy, sustainability, influence. I could go on but I’ll save these topics for separate posts.

For now, here’s your takeaway exercise:

Look at the diagram and the five focus points above and ask yourself which is currently missing from your business? Do you have a clear brand but no system in place to enact it? Do you have a dysfunctional system? Do you lack brand clarity and positioning? Start by putting your finger on what needs your attention most, but be sure to move forward with the holistic mindset of knowing that every element impacts every other element. Don’t create a Band-Aid, create a long-term systemic solution from the inside out.

Get in touch if you think I can help. 

Coursemania: A Brief History of Online Courses + How to Stand Out

Diana Chaplin

Have you noticed how online courses have become a commonplace phenomenon on the web? How practically everyone is stepping into a position of expertise on something? How information is being packaged in a way that makes experience and knowledge a widely-available and marketable commodity?

It’s a fascinating emergence from the evolving nexus of technology, entrepreneurship, and the demand (dare I say, hunger?) for learning.

Let’s unpack what’s really happening here - and why - in an effort to understand how we got here. Then we can follow the path to leveraging this information for the sake of benefitting both you as a business owner, and your audience as the people you hope to impact in a positive way through this delivery method – without getting lost in the shuffle.

The idea of virtual learning may appear on the surface as a fairly recent thing, after all it’s only within about the last 20 years that the internet really entered our everyday lives on a mass scale, but you’d have to go back, waaaay back to the real beginning.

We’ve been interested in a virtual model of communication that goes far beyond the physical classroom for centuries now. Long before the internet was even a glimmer in the minds of some of the scientists and engineers whose combined efforts came to the infancy of what is now a digital behemoth, humanity has had a timeless desire to learn, to develop our understanding of the world, and to infinitely expand our minds.

Over time we created the technology to satisfy this need, but the need itself is not a consequence of the technology. It is a primal aspect of the incredible and mysterious evolutionary unfolding that makes us human.

It’s the same impulse that caused the first human migration out of Africa, learning to make tools and creating written languages, expressing ourselves through art and music, exploring the invisible compositions of the environment and the workings of our own bodies, and following so many other curiosities in an effort to understand the extraordinary nature of reality.

Yes, I’m bridging the development of online courses to the highlights of human evolution. Bear with me here.

The idea of actively learning from teachers is timeless. But while this started on a small scale (one person in the village learning something and sharing that skill with a few other people, who then shared with a few more people, etc.) and grew to become more institutionalized over time (one person undergoes specialized training to maximize their knowledge over a certain subject, in order to then teach that to large groups of students as a life-long profession) what we are seeing NOW is sort of coming full circle.

We have grown weary with traditional education, with its structures, rules, and limitations (oh, and high cost). It’s just not enough anymore. The world is changing too fast and we have developed a taste for a far wider network of inspiration and information than ever before. We want to learn what we want to learn, when we want to learn it, through a media that is convenient and easily accessible.

How we qualify teachers has also expanded beyond the need for certain qualifications into the broader realm of experience-based wisdom.

Our unprecedented access to infinite amounts of knowledge has brought us back to learning desired or practical skills directly from each other. 

While it certainly helps to have credentials or experience to show that someone is qualified to teach something, that proof of expertise can be presented in a myriad of ways that leaves it up directly to the consumer/student to decide whether that course provider is going to give sufficient value or not. It’s all completely open to interpretation, packaging, and the individual belief of perceived quality.

This unraveling in our understanding of education has paved the way for open-sourced learning, and teaching.

Beyond that, the main reason online courses are becoming so popular boils down to two words: PASSIVE INCOME. Once you invest the energy, time, and money into launching your primary online course, much of the work becomes automated, allowing you the freedom to focus on other things while continuing to generate income as people sign up for your course – sometimes while you sleep! Of course you still need to devote time to marketing, communication, and other things, but you can also experience a much more expanded business and life.

Savvy entrepreneurs and developers in the tech industry recognized this paradigm shift and further accelerated the momentum by creating platforms and digital infrastructure – not to mention integrating the facets for essential marketing and commerce - to facilitate online learning in a streamlined way that is user-friendly for both provider and consumers.   

That brings us here and now.

The great news is that it’s easier than ever to create, launch, and earn a substantial passive income from online courses.

The not-so-great news is that because it’s so easy and “trendy” there are many people doing this, so if you really want to succeed you’ve got to make sure to do it right.

What does that mean?  

1.   Know what you’re talking about!

If you have some knowledge in something but aren’t genuinely an expert, don’t do an online course yet. This doesn’t mean you can’t still have a successful online business, but it’s more effective to focus on building your audience and sharing your topic in other, more easily consumable ways (such as via a blog, ebooks or mini-guides, group discussions, etc.) while you are still learning yourself. Do this for a few years while you gain expertise and you’ll be in a stronger position to launch a course that is truly valuable and already has a built in audience ready to buy.

2.   Provide genuine value.

The decision to launch an online course shouldn’t ever come from the mere desire to make money. That sort of motivation results in a low-value course where people don’t really walk away having learned much and therefore won’t be motivated to sing your praises, ultimately leading your course to flop. Make sure your course is chock full of juicy wisdom shared in an actionable way so that your customers can quickly implement it in their lives and experience real positive results. This is the part that trips up entrepreneurs the most because it’s not just about sharing a message, it’s about elevating, organizing, and communicating a highly refined and unique message in meaty yet bite-sized pieces that leave your audience transformed at the core level. Not an easy task!

3.   Invest in a quality delivery method.

While I don’t recommend getting caught up in perfectionism, if you really want a successful course it should be presented in a clear and organized fashion, with good design aesthetic, and delightful presentation so that the actual process of consuming your information is enjoyable and free from confusion. You can easily research “online course platform” to see if something already exists that you like (in fact, here’s a great resource for product comparison), or find a developer to help you integrate something structured into your website that walks buyers through the process of learning. Use images and design that looks neat and fresh to evoke a feeling of getting something thoughtful and special.

4.   Get the timing right.

As mentioned above, having an audience of existing fans is crucial for launching your course with enthusiasm and positive response. If you’re new to your field and haven’t done much in the way of content-creation or marketing when you launch your course then you’ll be disappointed because there are just not that many people who know that you and your course exist. Time your course in a way that rides momentum with your other offerings, that takes into account the seasonal time of year, cultural trends, or something else that energetically jives with your course in a natural flow of what people are looking for.

5.   Inspire and elevate your audience.

Whatever your course is about, remember that timeless motivation for learning we all share. As humans we seek to reach our highest potential, follow curiosities, and acquire knowledge that will somehow result in happiness in one form or another. Ask yourself how your content can inspire greatness, connect your audience to something powerful, or light them up from the inside out. If you can leave them feeling good in addition to learning new skills or gaining some form of self-awareness then your course will truly stand out as special.

Regarding the topic, make sure…

  • It’s a topic people really want

  • It’s a topic that hasn’t already been heavily covered by others, or if it has, then make sure your approach is different

  • It’s a topic you are uniquely qualified to lead

The biggest mistake I’ve seen is with entrepreneurs who want to go from a small and inconsistent blog to a successful online course in a week. It might be technically possible to launch it, but it's unrealistic to expect huge success overnight. To really make it fly you'll need some deep thoughtfulness, attention to detail, a long-term strategy for growth, consistent content, audience engagement, authentic communication, savvy marketing, and a sense of style.

It all starts with the commitment to creating something spectacular.

If you need help with all of that, get in touch, we’ll make course magic together. 

Genuine Entrepreneurs You Should Know: Ryan Robinson

Diana Chaplin

Queue Don LaFontaine (the “movie voice guy”)… IN A WORLD where everyone is an entrepreneur, where slick marketing gurus leave a trail of broken hearts, landing pages, and half-pursued passions, ONE MAN actually cares about helping you thrive in the creative economy….

Ok maybe that’s a little dramatic, but it’s also true.

If you’re tuned in to the entrepreneur world then you might be a little fatigued by all the experts promising winning strategies, formulas for success, and 6-figure income through endless forms of virtual offerings. It’s not that I don’t respect smart advice and valuable insights from modern thought-leaders in the business world, because I do, but I’ve come to recognize the qualities that set genuine influencers apart from the rest.

·      They have a personal mission that goes much deeper than making money

·      They think about big ideas, and share those ideas with their tribe

·      They seek to connect people to resources, and to each other

·      They are not afraid to show their real unscripted lives

·      They GIVE to their readers, whether or not those readers ever become customers

·      They are humble, kind, and respectful in their words and actions

·      They pay homage to their own role models and acknowledge the sources of their insights

·      Rather than telling you how to do things, they ask powerful questions and inspire you to dig way down deep within yourself to carve your own path forward

Ryan Robinson is an entrepreneur, writer, content marketer, and champion to freelancers everywhere. He works full time at Creative Live (a creative learning platform that is chock full of affordable and comprehensive video courses), has a handful of clients, and writes immensely thorough and actionable blog posts to help other freelancers elevate their potential.

But wait… there’s more.

Ryan also has some seriously great courses of his own that are actually worth your time, and what he’s learned comes from various ventures of starting side businesses through the years. When he’s not doing all that he also manages to write articles for fancy publications like Inc. Forbes, and Entrepreneur, and even get out in the sun to explore the great outdoors so he doesn’t turn into a laptop zombie.

How does he do it all?

I thought he was superman until he recently revealed in a podcast interview that he wakes up at 4:30am. Not sure if Arianna Huffington (the sleep evangelist) would approve but hopefully he balances it with an early bedtime and occasionally sleeping in… till 6.

Ryan’s newest course is F-R-E-E (possibly not for long) and really, really well done: How to Find a Profitable Business Idea. As a content creator myself I tip my hat off to how clear, concise, and well-guided all the information is. Idea courses can sometime float in the realm of la-la land but Ryan’s is very grounded and moves that idea energy downwards into manifestation-in-reality land.

 I swear Ryan is not paying me to write this post!

I’m sharing this because he’s a great example of someone who goes above and beyond in providing value to his readers, and I want as many people as possible to take advantage of his generosity before he comes to his senses.

I’m also sharing this because he’ll teach you things you probably won’t learn anywhere else, and he’s actually full of tangible substance. He’s not going to tell you what you “should” do, but he’s going to suggest some really good ideas in sufficient detail for you to implement them if you want to, and you’ll probably see results in a fairly short time.  

That’s what it’s all about!

This is what a genuine entrepreneur looks like, and the kind of person I want to support in a professional and personal way.

And I love this, here’s Ryan’s perspective on the idea of “following your passion”:

“You can’t afford to wait for elusive passions to just fall down out of the sky, and you won’t find an online quiz that can just tell you which path your life should take. Success in business is determined mostly by how well you can identify, activate, and build your strengths. And you know what? We tend to become passionate about the things we’re good at.”

Right on brother.

Ryan and I met through Twitter. Yeah, really.

Somehow he found me and followed me there, and I was intrigued enough to check out his website and sign up for his list. In one of the first emails I received upon signing up he asked if I had any questions or struggles and I wrote back, something I’ve done before without any replies. But this time, a crazy thing happened…

He replied with a very thorough and personal response directly addressing my question with helpful recommendations that completely shifted how I was looking at a problem.

Whaaaaa? Who does that?

From there we’ve stayed in touch, like real humans, connecting about freelancing, good content, social media, and other things. He’s a genuinely nice guy.

So I’m writing this post to share the love. Go check out what Ryan has to say, you won’t regret it.

Ryan, if you’re reading this… iStash, really? You're just full of surprises. Now I’m inspired in a whole new way!

Client Experience Core Values: A Freelancer’s Manifesto

Diana Chaplin

Balance, mindfulness, and abundance are my core values in all areas of life, and it is no different in my freelance work.

Even before I began working independently with clients I had a certain work ethic that permeated my career journey from humble beginnings as an ice cream shop server, all throughout my administrative and waitressing jobs in college, my 5-year stint in publishing, and ultimately to being a Health Coach and a Content Manager at a wellness school before starting my own business as a copywriter and content strategist.

These principles have guided my path forward and made me a welcome colleague, coach, and writer. I just never thought to write them down before!

So in case you might be wondering just what guides my sense of purpose and what kind of experience you might expect as a client, here is my manifesto…

If this sounds like it's right up your alley,   let's talk.

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Launching Wellspired

Diana Chaplin

Wellspired.com is an inspiration and information haven where health-conscious working parents can find balance in the things that matter most: health, family, and career.

After an evolution years in the making and months in design and development, Wellspired has just been released into the world. Here's the backstory to my personal brand development...

It all began when I joined the staff team at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. It was a dream come true that allowed me to be surrounded by wellness-loving people, and to experience the school's Health Coach Training Program for myself, graduating as a Holistic Health Coach in 2012. I created a blog called Living Body Wellness to share wellness tips and offer my services as a part time Health Coach. I worked with some amazing clients and grew both personally and professionally as an entrepreneur on the side while working full time at IIN and raising a family.

After a while, I fell in love with blogging and content management and began to formulate ideas for where to take this venture next. In 2014, I was ready for a more professional redesign. I was still using a basic Wordpress theme after all and wanted a more visually pleasing user experience,

so I did some research on modern website designs - specifically avoiding what other Health Coaches were doing - and used PowerPoint to design a brand new look myself (yeah really, I bet any actual designers reading this are chuckling right about now but hey it worked!), hired a developer to build it, and the most recent version of LivingBodyWellness.com came to life. It helped increase my blog traffic, acquire more private clients, and get all sorts of offers for promotion, freelance gigs, and other projects. 

I got loads of compliments on the site and it was great, however the nature of entrepreneurship (and life!) is never static. In 2015 I left my full time work at IIN in order to move my family from New York City to Western Massachusetts and had to do some real soul-searching about the future of my virtual baby while I began to pursue content management on a freelance basis.

While I loved working with private clients to help them incorporate healthy habits, something in my heart told me that this was not my life's true calling. I wanted to create a wellness brand focused on the reader, her challenges and aspirations, her entertainment and information; a rich resource that would bring to life many voices beyond my own. I also wanted to expand the scope of "wellness" to include other things that are equally important: family and career.

Health, family, career.

This is what matters most.

That's when I had my my EUREKA! moment. I'm a health-conscious working mom, that's what I know, that's what I want to write about, balancing my kids, my health, and my work. I want to inspire others in bringing greater ease to this delicate balancing act so many of us struggle with. I want to have articles, wellness guides, meditations, challenges, and even inspired merchandising, all with the goal of uplifting our collective mindset. Not all of that has been created at this point, but we're well on our way!

I also wanted the site itself to have multiple contributors and perspectives, with myself as a tribe leader but not the role model, because to be honest, I'm still figuring out this balancing act just like everyone else. And this is an approach that would allow me to enjoy some of the behind-the-business things I like to have fun with: content creation, social media strategy, marketing, writing, gathering and organizing.

so I invited some wonderful bloggers to contribute regularly, with more contributors planned, so that Wellspired and our readers benefit from a greater diversity and abundance of content.

I also wanted the users/readers/fans of the site to have a voice and to experience a personal sense of joy every time they visit our virtual space. That's how I got the idea for the Daily Thanks comment stream. I don't know about you but daily gratitude always makes me feel good so I figured let's give this a try and see if the community likes it!

Members can post what they're thankful for in the "Daily Thanks" section of the home page.

This feature presented the biggest functional challenge because in order to avoid spam, the site had to have a "membership" component, requiring members to log in in order to post, but I think we worked it out so that the flow is simple and easy to use. Plus it creates a great foundation for future exclusivity of offerings to members only.

Once the new site was ready, it was time for the fun part: 

Announcements and generating excitement!

I created some graphics (using personal photos and styling elements from the site for cohesion) to spread the word, and sent these to my immediate circle of friends and family so they can craft announcements in their own words, using their preferred media channels. This is a nice way to bring a personal touch to the communication strategy, so the news isn't just coming from me.

Since I knew I wanted to maintain my existing audience (and redirect LivingBodyWellness content to Wellspired), I had already begun hinting about the upcoming rebrand in my newsletters and social media months in advance. I showed snippets of the new site, mentioned it in comments, and otherwise just planted the seed to both generate interest and avoid confusion when launch day came around.

On the big day, I sent the personal email to friends/family, a newsletter announcement to my subscriber list, created posts on social media, and notified a few "influencers" I know in the hopes that they'll share it with their larger audiences as well.

And here's the cherry on top.

In order to create even more excitement and encourage people to not only subscribe to the newsletter but become "members", something that requires an extra step and calls for a bonus incentive, I created an exclusive guided meditation on gratitude (fitting, since I'm grateful they signed up, and since signing up allows them to post in the Daily Thanks stream) for the first 50 members only.

Creating meditations is something I've dabbled in before and wanted to do for a long time, plus it just so happens that my husband is a musician who knows how to set up a proper home studio recording. Making this an exclusive offering for the first 50 members only creates a sense of excitement, desire, and scarcity.

Just in case that wasn't enough to spread the word, I also created a paid but inexpensive Facebook ad campaign, targeting my audience of health-conscious moms.

I have overseen countless launch and announcement campaigns in the past, but this was my first 100% solo operation launching something that is mine, and it was a great learning experience. Next step, SEO and growth strategy, streamlining content creation, and incorporating graphics, meditations, and other fun content assets into the ongoing creation strategy beyond wellness articles. Wheeeeee!

Marketing in the Time of Internet

Diana Chaplin

It used to be that marketing was a one-way street on a simple country road.

Businesses would take out ads on the radio, TV, or newspaper, showing mass audiences how awesome and fun their lives would be if only they had some product (or better yet, they'd just show the product itself held by a sexy woman, doctor, or rosy-cheecked child and call it a job well done). They could say whatever they thought would make you buy it, and it usually worked.

Research or oversight to ensure products did as promised was minimal, competition was scarce, and if you were dissatisfied with what you purchased there was really no way to provide feedback in a relevant way.

Crappy brands had it made.

Fast forward to present day and things are a bit more... complicated. We've gone from country road to information highway to a multi-dimensional, time-and-space-bending virtual reality since the internet reached critical mass in the first few years of this century.

Immense competition, quality standards, and social media have revolutionized how people interact with brands. Now there are websites to tell a story, there are analytics to show what's working and what isn't, there's e-commerce so you can get whatever you want, whenever you want it, and if you don't like it, you can not only return it but write a terrible review and damage that brand's reputation.

The power has shifted to the masses.

It is no longer adequate to simply describe the benefits of a product, show it being used, or even get fancy endorsements from celebrities or professionals in the field. If the product, message, or presentation sucks, most consumers will see right through the hype and sales will suffer. 

These days, marketers and brands must engage with potential customers, nurture them, cultivate a relationship, incorporate their feedback, and pull them towards something truly great rather than push them towards poorly-made junk.

With a dynamic like that you'd better believe the products and producers themselves have had to step it up. Few things are just things now. The best things offer a feeling of transformation, health and happiness, a better world, a more fulfilling life. They create an entire world around their products and make you want to be at the center of it all because it will actually make you a better person. 

The key is not simply creating something you (the creator) think is great and then investing  a whole lot of money into stuffing it down the throats of consumers, but developing a customer-centric idea that fulfills a need, putting it out there to test the waters, launching and learning, and continually improving based on real-time feedback from the actual people who use it.

Google does it, so does Apple, Facebook, PayPal, even Subway, Starbucks, and McDonald's. Countless more are getting on the bandwagon and realizing that the younger generation stepping into financial power has a new set of standards and expectations.

The ironic thing is that while most consumers feel uneasy knowing that companies are constantly storing our personal information with every keystroke so they can sell us things, we've also internalized these practices to the effect of being annoyed when we are promoted something clearly in conflict with our preferences.

I mean, if you're a health-conscious foodie and see an ad for KFC on Facebook you're more likely to feel violated, gross, and annoyed at Facebook for subjecting you to such an obvious lack of insight than if you were to see an ad for a yoga retreat or a new chia-coconut kombucha drink. Am I right?

Change may be slow for companies that have been around for a long time and have a hard time making shifts in their business model, but new companies are taking off and succeeding quickly by using these practices, just look at Kickstarter, Twitter, Toms, and all the countless artisinal food labels having breakout sales because they're smart about using Instagram!

Furthermore, there is greater specialization. Gone are the days when companies made "great clothes" or "sturdy backpacks" now if you're looking for black sweaty yoga leggings with butterfly patterns there's a business for that, if you're into patent leather tech accessories you can find it on Etsy, if you want Fair Trade raw dark chocolate with superfoods there's a biz for that too. It would have been unheard of to cater to such a niche market years ago but now the internet has united consumers and businesses who sell one-specialized-thing-but-it's-the-best-that-thing out there have flourished. 

Since the dawn of the internet, both marketing practices and the customers themselves have changed and we're not going back. Personally, I like it. It is a more authentic, fun, creative, and effective way to sell things that people genuinely want or need.

Goodbye commerce as money for goods, hello commerce as goods with value!