The Accidental Marketer: An Anthropologist at the DVBA

Of all the summer jobs I saw myself taking, marketing is not one I would have expected. I’ve worked in communications before this and I knew that marketing is suggested to anthropology students who don’t want to follow academic and research paths. Still, working hand in glove with the business community was never my aspiration. That said, I’m enough of a believer in fate to follow along when an unexpected path opens up.  

The work experience program at UVic is quite competitive, and the expectations of employers are not always aligned with the skillset you develop in university. Sometimes when it comes to work you take what you can get as an undergrad. However, if you are willing to take on any experience and appreciate the learning it affords, even the most unexpected roles can be incredible growing opportunities. That was my experience when I ended up with the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA) working as the summer Engagement Marketing Assistant.

Marketing for a non-profit is a unique experience because it’s focussed on supporting your members and telling a story, rather than selling a product or service. I’ve also come to realize that in our society, with climate change looming over us, every communications role in any organization can (and should!) consider sustainability and equity. Because of my background in anthropology and environmental studies, I am uniquely situated at the meeting place between social and environmental issues. I was able to apply some of the thinking I developed academically to my work in downtown Victoria this summer.

Businesses are, and will continue to be, important allies in building a more sustainable society. Small businesses are sometimes better equipped to respond to changing environmental considerations than large franchises, provided that government policy supports any necessary changes. For example, small businesses can choose to change their business model quickly, adopting sustainable practices like offering compostable containers or choosing not to sell disposable items. However, if these changes are expensive and are not mandated through policy, small businesses may take a hit. Working with the business community was fascinating, because I was forced to disrupt my perception of business=corporate.

Without businesses our city could not exist, and so a sustainable city requires sustainable businesses.

As a marketer, (even an accidental one) I see it as my role to support and promote the people and businesses who are making conscious decisions to lessen their ecological impact, support their local community, and rethink the way that ‘business’ engages the rest of society. I can see how this experience will continue to impact the way I approach environmental issues in the future.

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