Skip to main content

We live in an ego-centric world. Pushed to build personal brands, stand out, and be known. To create a perception that is bigger than reality. 

I recently read Ryan Holiday’s book “Ego is the Enemy.” It got me thinking.

As marketers, we easily fall into a trap of thinking that we know more than we do. That our experience and education are more relevant than they are in reality. That our success is purely up to us and has nothing to do with luck or timing.

I have recognized this in myself. With 30+ years of experience, sometimes I make assumptions that turn out to be wrong. My ego gives me a false sense of confidence in my knowledge and opinions.

There is a great quote from Marina Abramovic: “If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity.” It’s not that one day you think you are so great that you know everything, but that you start believing. It sneaks up. The ego is insidious. It allows us to get comfortable with our expertise so that gradually, we fail to question our mindset. We lose our creative edge.

When Michael Hill Jeweller started a chain of shoe stores, they relied on their fantastic retail success in jewellery to carry over into a new market. The shoe stores failed badly. It is a classic example of the ego taking over and getting comfortable, telling us that greatness in one area will naturally carry over to another.

When we rely on our greatness, we stop listening and observing. We develop a ‘disease of me,’ where our ego says, ‘you deserve this.’ Instead of approaching a new project with an open, creative mindset, ego tells us we already know how to do it. As a result, we miss key shifts in the market and customer behaviour – which ultimately leads to our downfall.

“Impressing people is utterly different from being truly impressive,” Holiday says in his book. Often, brands seek to impress rather than be impressive. It’s Kanye vs Keanu. Seeking approval of the masses vs acting with restraint and humility. Manufacturing a fantasy with ego at the centre versus being grounded in what is real – what our customers actually want.

For me, this is a work in progress. I have rediscovered research and the need to lay aside my assumptions and biases. I have remembered how important it is for marketers to listen and empathise and relate to people on a human level.

Here are a few tips for my fellow marketers to keep your ego in check:

Keep a student mindset. Continually observe, listen, and improve. Don’t assume you know the way.

Start every project with a blank sheet of paper and no assumptions.
Remember that your customer is the hero – not you and not your brand.

Be careful that your decisions are not led by insecurity or vanity.

Don’t give your power away by trying to win the approval of others.

And finally, don’t let the competition dictate what you do.