?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Notes on the Marketing Personality - click opera
February 2010
 
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
 
 
 
 
 
 
Page 1 of 2
[1] [2]
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 12:44 pm
Notes on the Marketing Personality

This is an extension to yesterday's entry (and my Frieze column) about "New Left mystic" Erich Fromm. Today I want to look at the personality typology he developed in his books Man for Himself, To Have or to Be? and The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. Above all, I'm interested in the personality he associated with modern capitalism, the Marketing Personality.



In Fromm's model, there are two basic types of person, Productive and Non-Productive. The Productive person is "biophilous", in love with life. This person is emotionally mature, basically able to work and to love. All the other types are neurotic in various ways, shading through to the sickest type, the "necrophilous" person, the person in love with death and destruction. Dick Cheney, or a high school shooter, perhaps.

In between Fromm's biophilous angel and his necrophilous devil, there are four types, with roots in different historical periods:

Receptive: Derived from Freud's oral incorporative type, this is a passive personality, expecting to be fed.
Exploitative: This comes from Freud's oral sadistic type, and represents someone who manipulates others.
Hoarding: From Freud's anal retentive type, the hoarder saves and stores in a pathological way. Some have likened the hoarder to the Victorian man of property, a development of the "Protestant-Capitalist" described by Max Weber.
Marketing: The marketing type is the only one Fromm made up himself, without reference to Freud. Marketing types dominate in our own society, where everyone has to think of him or herself as a commodity. Marketing types are fickle, faddy, superficial and conformist.



Here's Neil Clark in The Guardian:

"In The Sane Society (1955), Fromm argued that a society, in which "consumption has become the de facto goal", was itself sick. He advanced his theory of social character: that "every society produces the character it needs". Early Calvinistic capitalism produced the "hoarding character", who hoards both possessions and feelings: the classic Victorian man of property. Post-war capitalism, Fromm argued, produced another, equally neurotic type: "the marketing character", who "adapts to the market economy by becoming detached from authentic emotions, truth and conviction". For the marketing character "everything is transformed into a commodity, not only things, but the person himself, his physical energy, his skills, his knowledge, his opinions, his feelings, even his smiles". (For a perfect example of a "marketing character", just think of the current inhabitant of No 10 Downing Street). [At the time, Tony Blair.] Modern global capitalism requires marketing characters in abundance and makes sure it gets them. Meanwhile, Fromm's ideal character type, the mature "productive character", the person without a mask, who loves and creates, and for whom being is more important than having, is discouraged."



I think we all have to recognize the Marketing Personality as at least a partially-accurate description of who and how we are. It's certainly drummed into self-employed people that we have to market ourselves as a commodity in competition with other commodities (in other words, people). The faddy changes of my adolescent hero, David Bowie, could be seen as endless product re-launches, vampiric re-vamps of a fading brand. I've certainly marketed myself cannily over the years, and may even be doing it right now.

There's a little quiz you can take -- not entirely scientific or serious, but derived from Fromm's typology -- called Which of Erich Fromm's Personality Orientations Are You?. I got:

You Scored as Marketing
"You are probably a "Marketing" character. The marketing character is marked by an extreme desire to fit norms created by family, society, and culture. They are fashionable, dynamic and willing to compromise more than any of the other characters. They often find that morals impede on their lifestyle and goals and are often unprincipled. The marketing character will always look for a way to change himself before demanding social change."



You can watch a video of Erich Fromm talking about the Marketing Personality here. Here's the relevant section from the transcript:

WALLACE: In writing about men in America, you've said frequently - you've talked frequently - about what you call "the marketing orientation." What do you mean by "the marketing orientation," Dr. Fromm?

FROMM: I mean by that, that our main way of relating ourselves to others is like things relate themselves to things on the market. We want to exchange our own personality - or as one says sometimes, our "personality package" - for something. Now, this is not so true for the manual worker. The manual worker does not have to sell his personality. He doesn't have to sell his smile. But, what you might call the "symbol pushers" - that is to say, all of the people who deal with figures, with paper, with men, who manipulate - to use a better or nicer word - manipulate men and signs and words. All those today have not only to sell their service, but in the bargain, they have to sell their personality, more or less. There are exceptions.

WALLACE: So, his sense of his own value must, therefore, depend upon what the market, in this sense, is willing to pay for it...

FROMM: Exactly, just as a handbag which cannot be sold because there is not enough demand is, economically speaking, useless. And if the handbag could think, it would have a terrific inferiority feeling, because, not having been bought, it would feel useless. So does a man who considers himself as a thing, and if he is not successful to sell himself, he feels he is a failure.

Here's how Dr C George Boeree describes the Marketing Orientation:

"The marketing orientation expects to sell. Success is a matter of how well I can sell myself, package myself, advertise myself. My family, my schooling, my jobs, my clothes -- all are an advertisement, and must be "right." Even love is thought of as a transaction. Only the marketing orientation thinks up the marriage contract, wherein we agree that I shall provide such and such, and you in return shall provide this and that. If one of us fails to hold up our end of the arrangement, the marriage is null and void -- no hard feelings (perhaps we can still be best of friends!) This, according to Fromm, is the orientation of the modern industrial society. This is our orientation!

"This modern type comes out of the cool withdrawing family, and tends to use automaton conformity as its escape from freedom. Adler and Horney don't have an equivalent, but Freud might: This is at least half of the vague phallic personality, the type that lives life as flirtation. In extreme, the marketing person is opportunistic, childish, tactless. Less extreme, and he or she is purposeful, youthful, social. Notice today's values as expressed to us by our mass media: Fashion, fitness, eternal youth, adventure, daring, novelty, sexuality... these are the concerns of the "yuppie," and his or her less-wealthy admirers. The surface is everything."



Here's a gloss by Dean Sayers:

"The marketing orientation describes the mindset in which a man perpetally molds himself into society's image in order to fit the expected norms of society. He sees the world as a marketplace, where new symbolizes good and desirous, wheras old becomes ugly and useless to him. Fromm described this mindset as saying, "new is beautiful," as opposed to the historical mindset which has been one of keeping and maintaining possessions for later, commodity-oriented use: "old is beautiful."

"Marketing characters exhibit signs of extreme conformity and solve their problems as if they were simply manifestations of the market. These people look for mates as commodities to be scrutinized for positive traits which may have little to do with love, and create barriers between themselves and others defined by abstractions such as religiosity, monetary value and social status. Families which own or manage businesses or encourage conformity and a scholastic focus on the job market - that is, most families in industirialized nations today - tend to create marketing characters. This personality, Fromm said, only started to emerge with contemporary society and its focus on marketability."

Psychology lecturer Victor Daniels:

"The marketing economy says we have to sell ourselve, make ourselves into an object, commodity.There is an obsession with "packaging," with our facade. The person with the marketing orientation aims to sell himself or herself successfully on the market. This person does not experience himself or herself as an active agent, and to a great degree is alienated from his or her human powers. The sense of self stems from the socioeconomic role one plays. "Human qualities like friendliness, courtesy, kindness are transformed into commodities, into assets of the "personality package" that can bring a higher price on the personality market." A person's sense of his or her own value always depends on extraneous factors, on the fickle judgment of the market about the person's value."

Business writer Michael Maccoby:

"Not long after Freud described his three personality types in 1931, German psychoanalyst Erich Fromm proposed a fourth personality type, which has become particularly prevalent in today’s service economy. Fromm called this type the “marketing personality,” and it is exemplified by the lead character in Woody Allen’s movie Zelig, a man who is so governed by his need to be valued that he becomes exactly like the people he happens to be around. Marketing personalities are more detached than erotics and so are less likely to cement close ties. They are also less driven by conscience than obsessives. Instead, they are motivated by a radarlike anxiety that permeates everything they do. Because they are so eager to please and to alleviate this anxiety, marketing personalities excel at selling themselves to others.



The marketing-friendly Maccoby adds his own positive spin to the type:

"Unproductive marketing types lack direction, as well as the ability to commit themselves to people or projects. But when productive, marketing types are good at facilitating teams and keeping the focus on adding value as defined by customers and colleagues. Like obsessives, marketing personalities are avid consumers of self-help books. Like narcissists, they are not wedded to the past. But marketing types generally make poor leaders in times of crisis. They lack the daring needed to innovate and are too responsive to current—rather than future—customer demands."

This sounds like a marketing type describing marketing types, which raises the question: if this personality type is what capitalism has made us, how would we even see it? Wouldn't it just seem like "human nature" to us -- at least until our system started breaking down?

Other questions that occur to me: Is the decline of blue-collar occupations in the West corresponding to an increase in Marketing types? Are self-employed people and people in the arts the ultimate self-marketers? What if you have a marketing department to do your marketing for you, does that liberate you to do other things? Can you get "real" and productive again, after once having been a marketing type? What are Marketing Types like who don't share Fromm's "automaton conformity", but instead market precisely their headstrong eccentricities? Is that better, or worse?

Is my love of street fashion just a love of slick self-marketing? Is Obama a marketing type? And how does the cultural difference between Western and Eastern capitalism affect this? It's undoubtedly true that Asians tend to self-efface rather than advertise themselves; their societies are more collectivist than ours. Perhaps the Marketing Type only dominated the second half of the 20th century and is now on the way out, to be replaced by a Solidarity Type (in capitalist mode, but still collectivist)?

42CommentReplyShare


(Anonymous)
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 12:54 pm (UTC)

Fromm's model seems to suffer from a lack of types and subtlety. If I'm a marketing type - as the quiz suggests - then everyone I know must be a marketing type, because I honestly can't think of anyone I know less inclined to chase trends for social gain, money et cetera than myself.

I would admit that such an aspect exists in myself, but to say that was my actual type would be ridiculous, unless, for instance, you want to call my Christian because I grew up in a historically Christian country or something like that.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 01:10 pm (UTC)

I think it's Fromm's basic position that, in societies like ours, we're all obliged to be marketing types to some extent. He's not so much trying to get a finely-gradated personality system as make an ethical, political, even secularly religious point about our impoverishment under capitalism. I think he wants us to consider the possibility that there are other ways to be.


ReplyThread Parent Expand


(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand



(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand


(Anonymous)
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 01:03 pm (UTC)

Too interesting....

Alex P.


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 01:25 pm (UTC)

I think this Marketing Type stuff is good as far as it makes you recognize and think about some of the less noble values in our Western, capitalist societies. Like fish considering the water. You have to be able to present yourself, but you don't have to be a dick about it.

-Alexei M


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 03:32 pm (UTC)
solidarity type?

I'd love to hear more of what you think of this new solidarity type. I've noticed in this last week I've been in New York, I have heard almost daily people discussing things like communal share groups of electronic equipment ("because we all have surplus"), solidarity among artists (!), open sourcing everything (much much more than code), and so on. And this isn't granola San Francisco or hippy yuppie Park Slope.

-Roddy S.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC)
Re: solidarity type?

Well, one aspect of it is co-operative business structure. My Post-Materialist piece in tomorrow's NYT blog is about a shop here in Berlin showcasing products made in some of Europe's 60,000 co-operatives.


ReplyThread Parent

theodor
theodor
theodor
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 03:47 pm (UTC)

Out of interest, have you read Oliver James’ book ‘Affluenza’?

He references Fromm’s work throughout the text, which characterises the west’s need to consume and commoditise as a disease, i.e. ‘Affluenza’. The symptoms of this made-up disease are depression, dissatisfaction and a general despondency about everything. It’s interesting, but it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt and you need a certain agility to dodge some of the more sweeping generalisations.

Certainly worth a read though.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 05:02 pm (UTC)

Haven't read that, but it's good to hear he's banging the drum too!


ReplyThread Parent Expand





kineticfactory
kineticfactory
this is not your sawtooth wave
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 05:17 pm (UTC)
Marketing Personalities and the Marketing of Personalities

That's one of the things I dislike about MySpace: the way it transforms everyone, from musicians and people who put on shows to individual consumers, into self-marketers. MySpace is designed to reward and reinforce the Marketing Personality; for example, to promote a show or a release, it's not enough to post it to your page; you have to "friend" a lot of people and spam your advertisement over their walls, where it stays until the next rat in the race splats theirs, pushing it down. Thus the one to get heard is not the one with the most interesting things to offer, but the one who's best at shouting the loudest and getting in the most people's faces.

Even if you're not selling gigs or CD-Rs or zines on MySpace, you're selling something: yourself as Brand You. You're still in cutthroat Thatcherite-Blairite competition in the marketplace of personalities, promoting yourself, your excellent taste in music, your ownership of Emily The Strange merchandise, the awesome darkness of your tortured soul or what have you, as a selling point for why people should totally want to, like, be your friend.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 06:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Marketing Personalities and the Marketing of Personalities

But hasn't precisely that spam tide undermined MySpace? I've seen a lot of pages that were fairly vital a year or so ago go dead.

One of my last pieces for Wired was Sock Puppets Keep it Shill on YouTube, which looked at a similar phenomenon, and wondered just who's real and who isn't in Web 2.0. And the scary thing is that when you start looking at this stuff, you're not even sure whether you're real yourself. Because we all do it to some extent.

Edited at 2008-12-11 06:30 pm (UTC)


ReplyThread Parent Expand






(Anonymous)
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 06:51 pm (UTC)
Entertainment or Economy

I just finished reading Gabler's "Life: The Movie - How Entertainment Conquered Reality", so I cannot help but view the post in that context.

Putting it (probably too) simply, Gabler argues that (at least in America) you see the marketing personality (Gabler calls it the "others-directed" personality) as a result of our culture seeing entertainment as the standard of value. So, I suppose he would argue that it is not so much capitalism itself at fault as it is a capitalistic society that values entertainment entirely too much.

He comments that those people who embrace the idea of living a lifestyle that is informed by entertainment and therefore exudes entertainment are much more likely to be successful. He also suggests that those who suppose a narrative, entertainment-informed gloss on their lives are happier.

He wraps up the book wondering what is really better or what is the next evolutionary step: the realist who accepts boredom, pain, etc. as necessary to be human or the post-realist (post-materialist?) who has perhaps found a way to avoid such things and escape to a happier place.

Hopefully, that is not too much a tangent, but it is very difficult to not see the connection here.


ReplyThread
chronofile
chronofile
Nathaniel
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 07:17 pm (UTC)

In school, I intentionally chose a liberal arts degree without much use outside of academia. And yet, now that academia hasn't panned out like I'd hoped, I'm faced with the fact that my degree obliges me to be more marketing savvy if I hope to have a living wage and a job anywhere near my actual skill level. While I'm having to make a case that I'm useful at all, acquaintances who studied in medical fields, especially, are getting unsolicited contacts from eager employers.


ReplyThread
mrobot
mrobot
Ben
Fri, Dec. 12th, 2008 12:17 am (UTC)

and if you're anything like me, i bet you can relate to the idea of equating self-worth with market value!


ReplyThread Parent
harveyjames
harveyjames
harveyjames
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 07:30 pm (UTC)

I'm a marketing type, too.


ReplyThread
bikerbar
bikerbar
bikerbar
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 07:37 pm (UTC)

Great post and it ties in with a lot of my own thoughts recently.

I think some questions remains: How do we define ourselves outside the sphere of marketing when it is so closely tied to economic stability? How do we break away from the sense of failure when we are unable to sell ourselves?

When marketing is the driving social force, those who resist are cast out, wandering the margins of society. So the real art is outsider, all the rest is just shrill self-promotion.

I tested as a Receptive, marginally, and though this type is presented as the most negative, I think its quite common nowadays as well. We are passive, staring at screens, playing intellectual ping pong on blogs which are quickly erased by the everflowing data stream. I am waiting to be fed, to receive information, rather than intervene in the "real world" and become the "master of my own destiny" .. whatever that means.


ReplyThread
akabe
akabe
alin huma
Fri, Dec. 12th, 2008 05:30 am (UTC)

yep, think we'd test quite similar.
it's kind of obvious though that Fromm's 'good' type, to exist, would have to be , to start with at least, the synthesis of the other types. he doesn't seem to even mention it.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 09:10 pm (UTC)
Arke'ting

But actual marketing people, the good ones, are like art people who've sold out aren't they? They're quite creative. Their point is to get -other people- to conform, not to do so themselves. And surely a good 'marketing person' in Fromms sense would be quite similar, it's easier to sell something if it catches peoples eyes, seems 'new' etc, and that doesn't seem to jive with his feeling that conformism is at the root of this type.

I am put in mind of the recent viral success of the book by Neil Strauss 'The Game', which is an insiders account of the world of pickup artists ('PUAs') by one of the best. Its success may seem to support Fromms hypothesis.

Strauss became uncomfortable with thousands of people imitating his lines, his personal traits, his style etc and talked about 'congruency' which is where studying to be a pick up artist shades into something like a real quest for self-improvement, Not faking or being an automaton.

The best marketing man is someone who is selling his own product and believes every word he (or she) says.


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 09:14 pm (UTC)

"So the real art is outsider, all the rest is just shrill self-promotion."

I don't see how that follows. What is most art but a certain kind of fascinating self promotion? It is that. If it is nothing else it may be of minimal interest but from Da Vinci To Picasso to Koons art has had an aspect of 'self-promotion' (whatever exactly we take that to mean).


ReplyThread
bikerbar
bikerbar
bikerbar
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 09:49 pm (UTC)

You give too much credit to the artist
Art exists on its own
it moves through us

If it is great, it shouldn't require marketing
The problem is that we cannot see outside our own celebrity/marketing conception of reality in which
the one who screams the loudest or in a more original fashion grabs our short attention

when you speak of Da Vinci to Picasso to Koons, you are just viewing art history as a sort of hit parade. The individual names shouldn't matter, its the art of the period and how it changes through history that is interesting.


ReplyThread Parent


(Anonymous)
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 10:11 pm (UTC)
Marketing type

Alienated, didnt Marx call it. How late capitalism causes us to fracture. This, then is the marketing man, a man of fragments, but each fragments is itself made up from the other types. They/we are eroding, soldifying as late capitalism gives rise to...early post-capitalism. We eventually did get the means of production, thanks Bill Gates, but we never found out what to do with them. Bring it on.


ReplyThread
endoftheseason
endoftheseason
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 10:47 pm (UTC)
This is kind of no-brainer

"Is Obama a marketing type?"

There really can be no other answer to this than a clean, unconditional "yes." How else, in these self-flagellating days when we are all supposed to be eminently worried about America's "image" in the world, do you garner the votes and the adoration of the kidz, the yoof, and the right-on from L.A. to NYC, Toronto, Tokyo, Berlin, Paris, and so on?


ReplyThread
endoftheseason
endoftheseason
Thu, Dec. 11th, 2008 10:49 pm (UTC)
Re: This is kind of no-brainer

Sorry, "a no-brainer."


ReplyThread Parent
count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Fri, Dec. 12th, 2008 01:28 am (UTC)

It's funny that Zelig was mentioned in this post, because when I saw the Murderers sleeve in The Poison Boyfriend thread, where you mentioned that you looked "African", my immediate thought was - Zelig!

Edited at 2008-12-12 01:31 am (UTC)


ReplyThread