Basics of Self and Identity (in) Marketing

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” This is a theoretical question that may concern an individual more than they think. We want to be recognized, but can it be accomplished without showing? They say show, don’t tell. Why? Because “showing” points out that presentation may very well be more important than mere information.

Let’s disentangle the bundle of marketing terms such as voice, identity, brand, style to basics and see their psychological implications.

Visual Identity

Theorist and psychologist Jacques Lacan talked about the primary formation of our identities as a reaction to our own reflection in the mirror. Playing with this image is what caused us to gain self-awareness. In other words, an image is a means of gaining knowledge.

That’s precisely why we call someone’s prominent style “an image.” It shows not only one’s perception of oneself but also gives social cues to others. It communicates to others, consciously or unconsciously, giving off messages.

Tip: So think not just of a person’s clothes, but of their whole personality as an image. When it comes to business, it goes from their social media profiles to their resume. Customize a resume to represent personal taste with a resume builder or hire a graphic designer to implement a visual identity.


Carl Gustav Jung talked about persona being a socially adapted Self, a part of the personality that we show before others, a mask we put in public. However flexible and mutable it must be – it is essential that it is mastered, as “the man with no persona… is blind to the reality of the world” and “eternally misunderstood.”

We all inhabit certain roles and play games in different social contexts. A person can regard these roles as kinds of social filter, which helps people recognize the pattern and make it easier for them to engage in a social game with them.

Tip: Of all four points, this is the core of brand marketing. An individual inhabiting a certain archetypal role – be it “the achiever,” “the queen bee,” “the wise man,” “the cool guy” – can hold immense power. It makes them more alluring and helps them consciously master their charisma.


Storytelling was a crucial part of psychotherapy ever since Freud, but philosopher Paul Ricoeur finally explained the function of narrative in forming identity through active interpretation and “emplotement.” This means that disparate elements of our experience are assembled into a meaningful whole that forms a narrative.

Engage in a little storytelling. This will make a person’s life experience more coherent, and more easily presentable. Being in charge of their own story can present them with a more clear and meaningful sense of self and personal past experience while also making others around receptive to their story. This will make it easier for them to exert their potential.

Tip: This is a good way of giving voice to individual achievements without bragging. A person can apply this to everyday experiences and progress, just as they would to their life story or general resume.


All of these points have to do with articulating the Self in one way or another. But saying “voice” implies the presence of the speaker. So, to rephrase the first question, if a speaker doesn’t articulate, does he have a voice (read: identity) at all?

Speak up. This doesn’t mean be rowdy, but quite literally – articulate. It will make an individual more clear on who they are and what they want. This way they both consciously keep track of their plans and projects and update the potential audience on who they are (becoming).

Tip: It boils down to exercising assertiveness. Enroll in a rhetorics course or join a debate club. Even the already assertive people can benefit from this, by refining their arguments and making clear (and compelling) points. The good feedback given in return will greatly help confidence and charisma.

In Conclusion

Why did Roland Barthes name his marketing semiotics mythology?

When it comes to self/identity marketing, we can see now how “be original” is the worst advice someone can give a person. Originality is the closest to being unaware and unknowing, as styles, roles, and tales (i.e. visual identity, persona, narrative) exemplify the mastery of Self through shared, collective knowledge.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.