Are we responsible for breeding a generation of narcissists?


I fully realise this blog has the potential to polarise readers but I'm not one to shy away from speaking my mind. I think it's important to question our trade from time to time to make sure we are on course and that we are being good corporate citizens. When we think of corporate citizenship we usually think of the social responsibility of our business and the extent to which they meet our legal, ethical and economic obligations. It's usually dictated by the shareholders and underpins all our business's activities.

But what about our social responsibility when it comes to ensuring we are supporting the social fabric of society where the next generation of leaders are selfless, self-controlled and thoughtful? From what I've seen, our current activities as marketers and event sponsorship specialists largely revolves around perpetuating a generation of narcissists and how can that ultimately be good for society? Just to be clear, the term narcissist comes from the Greek myth of Narcissus, it's a story about a young man who falls in love with his own reflection as viewed through a pool of water. It's different to self-esteem, people with self-esteem still value relationships and care for others. Narcissists care less about other people and are more fascinated with their own self-image because 'when I rule the world it will be a better place.' Sounds rather like our President-Elect Donald Trump doesn't it?!

You only need to attend a major sporting event such as the Melbourne Cup or the Australian Open to see the plethora of brand names all vying for the attention of the consumer with activations that revolve around perpetuating the notion of self. And they're all the same! Excited girls and boys, young and old, line up to pose against a background or installation that is later branded and emailed to your inbox. The whole idea is to create shareable content and I get that but is this just a cheap shot at brand awareness and one that isn't ultimately in the best interests of anyone?

This narcissist behaviour has its roots in believing yourself as extraordinary. That your life is important enough that other people actually care what you eat for breakfast or how you look. It's a 'me, me, me' culture where we care less about others unless it's beneficial to our own self-promotion and advancement.

The truth is social media is making us self-obsessed and while marketers continue to believe this is the holy grail of engagement we will forever be a victim of our own circumstances. I understand social is here to stay and it's part of our daily interactions but let's still be mindful and think more critically about how we can put its use to the greater good.

So what can we do to help turn around the tide of our current culture? We need to become aware of the growing problem and do our bit as corporate citizens to create new engagement opportunities with our brand that doesn't revolve around perpetuating this epidemic. I'm as guilt as the next person of posing for a photo against a wall of roses at Melbourne Cup, I don't consider myself unique or special. And I hate doing it. No excuses but most of the time I partake because I want to understand intimately how each activation works and the more I study it the more I think we as marketing professionals can be a bit more creative in our approach. Let's look more at how we can accentuate the best bits of an event or reduce the worst bits and make the event experience more pleasurable overall. That's what will really get people talking about your brand name because you took away the long wait in lines or because you made it really easy for people with disabilities to enjoy the same experience. This is creating real word-of-mouth that a pretty picture simply won't achieve. Let's all have a bigger think about our role as corporate citizens and what that means so every touchpoint is considered, meaningful and good for society.

It's not going to be easy but we need to make a start.

Need help with your next event? Want some ideas on how to activate with purpose? Email us at or phone 1300 366 306.

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