If you find yourself using buzzwords, stop

July 19, 2015

I was reading a post on All About Beer yesterday about Pabst Brewing Co. While PBR isn’t my favorite beer by a long shot—it’s not even my favorite lager; Oakshire’s Reclamation and Karbach’s Sympathy for the Lager tie for that accolade, #beernerdcred—I skimmed the article, and it was my marketing brain that was struck. Here’s my takeaway:

If you find yourself claiming to know what millennials like, or invoking your personal brand, or speaking openly about the story of your brand, stop. Nobody will look kindly upon you for talking like that.

I say that as somebody with a marketing background, and who has within me those same tendencies. I know what Mr. Kashper means when he talks about his company’s brands, and the story of those brands, though I would never presume to know what millennials like, since grouping people into such a large age bracket is nearly useless. My same-age friends who are married or have kids have very different likes and dislikes than me, for example.

But I also know that, every single time I hear someone talking about brands and target markets, I roll my eyes. Even though I understand what they’re saying. Even though i know what they mean.

That kind of language doesn’t work. It sounds inauthentic. And inauthenticity is the death of marketing. Or, to put it in a non-marketing way: Nobody likes a phony, and we hate people who try to pigeonhole us, categorize us, and treat us like things instead of people.

Many fiction authors have an advantage when it comes to marketing, and it’s paradoxically because they don’t know anything about marketing. They don’t have that voice in their heads that’s telling them to tone it down, to be phony—or if they do, they’ve silenced it. Which is great, because it gives them the one thing all marketers lust after: it makes them interesting. And that’s the soul of good marketing.

What Mr. Kashper should have done was talk about his beers. There’s no need to tell the story of these brands—tell people about the beers. Tell them about Ballantine IPA, National Bohemian, Rainier, and Lone Star—though I can assure you that no one who has gone to college in Texas in the past 20+ years needs to be told what Lone Star is about. It’s about beer pong, mostly. And house parties, barbecues, day drinking, and football. But mostly beer pong.

The thing is, whether you talk about the beer or the brand, you’re usually saying the same thing. But when you ignore the brand and focus on the product or service itself, it helps remind you what’s important. Make a good beer, not a good brand. Tell why you love this brewery, not why your brand is great. And for the love of gods, don’t talk about what millennials like, because you have no idea. No one does. It’s too big.

That’s why I try not to think of my personal marketing as “building a brand,” even though that’s technically what it is. I just think of it as telling you about myself, and why my stories kick ass. That helps me shut up the little voice in my head that tells me to tone it down, to not rock the boat, to be phony. ‘Cause there ain’t nobody who wants to read a book written by that guy.

As always, thank you for using my Amazon Affiliate link (info).

By Stephen W. Gee

Author of Wage Slave Rebellion, Freelance Heroics, and about two good blog posts out of a hundred.


  1. Reply


    They never knew what Gen Xers, like myself, liked either. I mean, we had Zima, so we knew what they were doing with the Millennials via PBR from a mile away.

    1. Reply

      Stephen W. Gee

      To be fair, Zima is an alchopop, while PBR is one of many relatively interchangeable macro lagers. There have been a TON of alchopops since Zima, that was just the one that caught on in the national consciousness.

      Looks like even something like beer can’t shut my business brain off, haha

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