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Marketing the Self

This paper provides a content analysis of1094 dating advertisements. It seeks, in part, to test results of previous research emanating mainly from the disciplines of psychology and sociobiology, which shows that men offer financial and occupational attributes and seek physical attractiveness in partners whereas women offer physical attractiveness and seek resource and status attributes, consistent with traditional “sex-role” stereotypes and mating selection strategies. Locating analyses in the context of a postmodern, consumer society, it shows that lifestyle choices have superseded resources as primary identity markers for men, that women market their “masculine” attributes and seek “feminine” men; and that the body is central to identity for both men and women. It concludes therefore that traditional gendered stereotypes may now be changing as men and women deal with a context of a novel set of social conditions.

Elizabeth Jagger, “Marketing the Self, Buying Another: Dating in a

PostModern, Consumer Society”

Abstract This chapter deals with the way people learn to market themselves and with different aspects of self-promotion. The way high-school students market themselves so they will be accepted in prestigious colleges and universities is discussed. The difference between a persona, privata, and privatissima is explained. This leads to a discussion of the relationship between brands and a person’s “self.” The use of fashion styles to call attention to oneself is explored. Next, there is a discussion by a psychiatrist about the difference between people’s real selves and the way they present themselves on Facebook. He suggests that being on Facebook and other © The Author(s) 2016

A.A. Berger, Marketing and American Consumer Culture, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-47328-4_8

social media can cause psychological problems. Finally, the notion that many people are impostors, though they don’t recognize that this is so, is explored.

Keywords Self-promotion • Persona • Privata • Privatissima • Brands • Fashion • Impostors

If marketing has permeated American culture, and that is the implication from what I’ve written so far, then we can see it in the way we think about ourselves and present ourselves to others. If you grow up in a culture permeated by marketing, you cannot help but become “imprinted,” to use Rapaille’ s term, with the utility and importance of marketing and learn how to market yourself. You may not think of your behavior in these terms, but it is reasonable to suggest that much of our behavior involves self-promotion, which can be also construed as “self-marketing.”

The epigraph by Elizabeth Jagger shows how, in postmodern America, both men and women “market themselves” in dating advertisements. Men offer financial stability and seek attractive women and women offer attractiveness and seek financial stability. And there are other complicated factors. In the case of dating advertisements, it is quite obvious that the marketing sensibility is operating. When we go out on a date, we are selling ourselves. But well before people reach the stage in which they are placing dating advertisements, they are marketing themselves in other ways.

Let me offer an example that helps us understand how personal marketing shapes our lives—the college resume.

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