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Fearless Protagonist

Your Roaring 20’s (or 30’s): Jay Gatsby’s Guide to Marketing


 “There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars,” the great F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in “The Great Gatsby.”

I wish my summer nights were going like this; instead, it’s a lot of falling asleep to Netflix on the living room couch…

Anyway! The neighbor in question is the eccentric and mysterious Jay Gatsby. Gatsby has a slew of rumors floating from the mouths of his party guests—murderer, soldier, spy, bootlegger—but the one thing that can be held as truth is that he knows how to throw a killer party.

Our narrator, young, naïve Nick Carraway from the Midwest, knows nothing of East Egg and West Egg (stand-ins for old and new money) and the drama that lingers around them. When Gatsby decides to take him in (not without his own motives of course), Nick hears the “truth”—or at least some version of it.

Gatsby, notoriously, goes to extremes to craft his image of an elusive and intriguing millionaire to attract the crowds for his parties and hopefully lure in his old love, Daisy.

This, my friends, is the same goal as marketing: creating a particular image or idea for your product or services that appeals to a target audience.

Gatsby used his extravagant fêtes to sell himself as one of the wildly wealthy, and with 1920’s opulence he won them over.

It is from his outward appearances that everyone draws conclusions: the clothes, the cars, the liquor, the objects in his house are only there because they were expensive. The fact that the host never introduces himself only feeds to the speculation about who he is and what he does.

The story that he chooses to tell is one of valor from serving in the army, inherited money from a rich family, sophistication from his Oxford days, and other such alterations to the truth. While bits and pieces are true, as we find out later on, most of what he claims is a lie made to suit Daisy’s lifestyle—a fabrication of his fantasies that creates an alternate persona from his true past.

He realized that people will think of you what you tell them.

He could control the perception of himself by how he looked, talked, and dressed—all factors that were within his power to alter.

Now, I am not endorsing lying.

Gatsby does a lot of things wrong. I mean, if you know the ending, you realize that maybe his life wasn’t so hot, but I won’t spoil that for anyone who hasn’t read it…

BUT his ambition and image did help him reach the green light across the harbor, that metaphor for our (seemingly) unattainable goals.

So what does Gatsby do right?

They say that to become what you want to be, you have to start acting like it.

It might not feel like you’re a real writer, or scientist, or businessman yet, but acting the part is half of it. Feigning confidence leads to the real thing. Take Gatsby as proof: he pretended to be rich, and he hung out with other rich people, and BAM everyone assumed that he was truly rich. Taking on a new attitude, manner of dress, and dialect was his idea of a rich person, and once he acquired the money, he really did become that rich person.

It might not feel comfortable, but to promote the best you there must be an appealing idea of you or image of you.

This then becomes your marketed image or your personal brand: This becomes who you are to other people.

Decide what you want to be. Whether it’s your career, your personal goals, your character, you decide to be the protagonist that you want to be. Gatsby started from nothing but he built himself up to an extraordinary millionaire by his own will and determination.

I’m not saying to change who you are. I’m saying find your strengths, the things that you’re best at, the things that you would want people to know about, and use those to broadcast the message you want to send out. Gatsby did this very selectively in the way he chose exactly what details he wanted his guests to put together. Your unique skills or experiences are what distinguish you from all the rest, so play it up!

Once you realize your goals and strengths, make the impression you want to have. The ability to change others’ perception of you is within your grasp; your online presence, your connections through work, school, or friends, the way that you dress for interviews or meetings, your professional manners, and your work ethic are ALL details that you can control and put to work!

Take Gatsby as a cautionary tale and a role model; he did a lot of things for the wrong reasons but he did have the courage and ambition to follow his desires, as well as give up his past for a better future.

Proceed wisely, old sport.


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