Consumer Narcissism and How Brands Can Take Advantage

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As part of the Digital Due Diligence process we are often asked by strategists and marketing directors how people can leverage positive advocates to their brand benefit.

And for many years I have been promoting the recognition of and marketing to individual motivational hooks associated with core audience groups: Ego, Incentive and Altruism.

It’s not that they have always been mutually exclusive, but for the past two years we have really seen a shift in how we monitor, categorise and strategise to audience.  Why?  Because so many people are now dominantly motivated by Ego.

But this is not what shocks me.  What shocks me is the level of influence that these essentially narcissistic people have on online communities.  That’s right, I’m talking about serial selfie-takers.

We notice that key influencers online used to be able to comment on and take pictures of products simply because they were good products.   Nowadays, so many of these images contain a selfie of said influencer that that product almost becomes secondary.

Or indeed there is the emergence of the selfie taker who wants to become recognised by the brand.  Spewing out hashtags related to the bag they’re carrying or the car they’re driving, seemingly unaware that we can barely see the darn thing as the image is taken up by a photoshopped image of their face.  Flagrant self promotion to get in bed with the big wigs (and increase their visibility).

But I’m not here to have a moan about serial selfie-takers, they’re in enough psychological pain apparently.  I’m talking about how brands must shift their focus and respond to what we are seeing:  the rise of the person-brand.

How does a brand promote itself when today’s influencer is more interested in promoting themselves?

Firstly, accept that you are second place in this marriage of convenience.  You are never in control of the outcome so just accept that.  Shakespeare’s Shrew is a good example.  You can struggle against the social force only for so long before you have to submit to your role as the less dominant force.

Secondly, and importantly, play to their strengths.  (or weaknesses).  Encourage that which absorbs them.  Inflame the ego.  Reward their self-indulgence…gamify their exposure and reward their success on your behalf. After all, their post acts as social proof that your brand is a success.

This isn’t news – this is the oldest engagement tactic in the book.  It’s just that because in-between there have been other influencing factors, tactical and psychological, it is worth reflecting upon.  However technology and platform evolution have seen the emergence of a different kind of influencer.

So simplify what you’re doing because engaging a narcissist is really very simple: make them look good.   In this day and age, it can reap commercial rewards.


Note:  Not all serial selfie-takers are narcissists.  Some people really do just have to show their abs/get-out-of-bed hair/car (seatbelt) for entirely non self-affirming reasons like…erm…