The marketing character
Outer shine and inner emptiness. The personality structure of Erich Fromm’s marketing character
The second half of the 20th century produced a steadily growing consumer society with the increasing prosperity of the Western world and the capitalist world economy. Today, this can be influenced to such an extent by the ideals of advertising that even domestic happiness and a satisfactory private life for many people can only be defined by the possession of certain goods and goods that underpin their social status. The marketing strategies of capitalist corporations have become increasingly aggressive for decades, severely undermining the very needs of human beings by manipulating their deepest emotions.
In a modern world in which the advertising present in all media personifies all consumer goods and occupies them with certain emotions, an alienation of the human from its actual sensations inevitably takes place. The humanistic philosopher, social psychologist and social critic Erich Fromm observed these tendencies as early as the fifties and described their effects on the human individual through the so-called marketing character, a social type, on whose life the motives of staging, artificiality, image and packaging can be transferred directly.
The marketing character and the dangerous conformity
Based on the developments of the modern affluent society, Erich Fromm described the marketing character as a type of human being who succumbs to the world of marketing without being aware of it himself. The basic feature of such a person lies in the tendency to define his self-worth solely by the opinion of his environment. The marketing character literally carries his personality to the market by offering it as a commodity and molding and staging it according to existing demand. He dresses according to the existing fashion, surrounds himself with the things that are advertised as desirable in the advertising, and enters into human relations exclusively with regard to their functionality.
The marketing character unconsciously sees himself as a blank canvas, onto which all expectations of his environment as well as public opinions and values are projected. This leads to a distortion of his own personality, which no longer exists on the principle of “I am who I am”, but based on the leitmotif “I am exactly as you want me to have”. In doing so, he creates an image that can be judged from a socioeconomic point of view and, subsequently, an abstraction of his own ego.
In short, Fromm’s marketing character has no other goal than the best possible and most successful sale of his own person in different areas of life. To implement this, he is every means right. Self-staging, the down to the smallest detail matching outfit, a contrived behavior and a deliberately chosen milieu in which he moves, are the basic motives of his existence.
Self-marketing and the empty soul
Erich Fromm puts his marketing character of the 20th century in a strong contrast to the people of the 19th century, who maintained his personality despite rising industrialization and increasing consumerism, which served him as a stable base in life and could not be shaken in its foundations. The marketing character as a consequence of capitalism, on the other hand, appears as a “flag in the wind”, because its self-marketing outwardly causes a degeneration of its inner life and its self-esteem is constantly dependent on the views of its fellow human beings. He is no longer an individual with spirit and emotions, but a commodity with expiration date, but without potential and meaning in life .
The guiding principle “I am exactly what you want me to have” does not come to the fore in any area of life as much as in the modern working world. Here, the marketing character defined by Fromm finds its full validity, because on the job market every worker willing to work must literally carry his person to the market. Here, the human being as a commodity has an exchange value, here he must always adapt his personality to the existing demand of the respective profession.
The marketing character of the modern working world is only successful if it is ready for the absolute subordination of his ego. He is forced to adapt his behavior, his language, his clothes and, in many cases, his private life to the requirements of his employer in order not to lose value and market presence as a human product. Thus, the marketing character is mainly characterized by the loss of their own identity, which degrades him to a emotionally indifferent, internally stunted and arbitrary being, which is solely for the economic success of the company.
Relationships as accessories
According to Fromm’s theory, the marketing character also transfers his absolute will to conformity to his private environment. If the image, packaging and staging of one’s own ego in a person’s life are a top priority, his interpersonal relationships are also salable goods. Anyone who has lost his ego can not shake hands with you either. The marketing character therefore looks at the “personality market” and also chooses his potential partners and friends according to how his environment will react. Like the chic car, the expensive watch and the professional position that support his self-esteem, he also sees love partners and friendships as goods with exchange value. According to Fromm, the interpersonal relationships that the marketing character leads are, according to the aspects of the market economy, working connections characterized by inner lifelessness.
Marketing character or narcissist?
Modern society has for decades produced innumerable human individuals, who by their lack of social intelligence, lack of emotion, indifference to world affairs, and subsequent generations, are in fact the type of Fromm’s marketing character. Many people today compensate for lack of detachment, inner emptiness and lack of human closeness with exaggerated consumer behavior and a striking tendency to self-staging. Nevertheless, it depends strongly on the individual personality of a person, whether he is prepared to renounce any individuality as a system-conforming entity and to alienate in his professional and private everyday life of his own self so far that his feelings completely stunted.
Although Fromm’s marketing-style approaches even in the modern world of work a technique of survival, exaggerated vanity, status thinking, self-staging, image and deliberate choice and manipulation of human contacts are more likely to be assigned to such characters, for different reasons under a lack of self-esteem or under suffer from a disorder known in psychopathology as narcissism . In this sense, Erich Fromm’s marketing character can be seen not only as a social type, but also simply as a lack of character strength.