The Self

Does the Self Exist?

Is the Self viewed differently in different cultures?


Who are you? See Betty White Superbowl Ad 2010

The Self Concept :

The attitude a person holds towards her/himself; the beliefs about your own attributes; composed of many attributes; can be distorted


Self Esteem

The positivity of one's attitude towards oneself; marketing can alter by triggering social comparison


Ideal Self

Ideal Self is a person's conception of how they would like to be; partially based on elements of one's culture

Example: I want to be different, Apple

The Army says they can make you into a better self

couch potato

Actual Self

Actual Self-A person's realistic appraisal of his/her qualities

Maybe this is me?

Reebok: Where your couch is out to get you


playmateFantasy Apeeal

A self-induced shift in consciousness, often focusing on some unattainable or improbable goal; sometimes fantasy is a way of compensating for a lack of external stimulation or for dissatisfaction with the actual self.

Yeah, that's me!


Today everybody can be in a reality show, create an ad

Axe makes commercials that appeal to fantasy

Our aging population and affluence fuel demand for fantasy-status conscious- youth oriented



Virtual Identiy vs Real Identity Image courtesy of facebook real you vs imagined youVirtual Identity

Online people assume a virtual identity. One example could be the use of an avatar in virtual world's or video games. Sherry Turkle in Rethinking Identity through Virtual Community discusses how people online become the authors of a text about themselves.

People can filter how they appear and filter how others see them through selected sharing of experiences.

Online in social networks people can reflect an image of themselves that may be less like their actual self and more like their ideal self.



The Looking-Glass Selfcool

The process of imagining the reaction of others towards oneself

You think I'm sexy, don't you?



Symbolic Self-Completion Theory

Apple adThe Symbolic Self-Completion Theory is the perspective that people who have an incomplete self-definition in some context will compensate by acquiring symbols associated with desired social identityi

Example: If I own one (an Apple), I will be like them


The theory argues that many activities people partake in are to prove their definition of themselves. When people are unsure of themselves, they may use possessions to show who they are. Individuals demonstrate materialism (success as having wealth and possessions) when definitions of themselves are uncertain or threatened.

Advertising targets consumers feelings of "incompleteness" by showing how products will make up for their incompleteness. The products symbolize some missing quality or qualities. Old Spice uses phrases such as "smell like a man, man." The brand promises masculinity. The user feels more confident how others see them. Apple wants consumers to think different, be unique. Consumers buying the product may see themselves as different, unique, creative. You can think of the product as a kind of crutch to prop you up

In other words, if people feel less than complete they buy products to feel more complete. Consider Dr. Evil of the Austin Powers film series, who says to Mini Me, "You complete me." That's symbolic self-completion.

The picture that a person portrays to the world on facebook may be an example of symbolic self-completion theory. We see a filtered view. Perhaps they look to be eternally having fun in a perfect relationship. In fact the truth could be the opposite!

Self-image Congruence Models

I'm a Mac, I'm a PC adSelf-image congruence models are approaches based on the prediction that products will be chosen when their attributes match some aspect of the self

Example: I'm unique

Self Image congruence models show that a consumer rates himself to match perception of their car, sometimes we are like the product we consume; we may describe an object and then that description may match ourselves.

Click here for Scale to measure Product Images and Self-Images (inside link)

Who are we? Are we more than one person to different people and in different situations?

What different roles do you play in your life?

We are like actors playing roles in different situations-"role identities"

Symbolic Interaction Theory

Symbolic interaction stresses that relationships with others play a large part in forming the self; meaning is attached to symbols; we have shared meanings for signs; assessing who we are is in constant change.

We tend to pattern our behaviour on perceived expectations of others in a self-fulfilling prophecy

We are affected by self-consciousness to different degrees; some are concerned with their image and are high self-monitors who evaluate products on the effect they will have on others

People act based on symbolic meanings they find within any given situation or object. People interact with the symbols, forming relationships around them. The goals of interactions with one another are to create shared meaning. Our culture helps us to identify meanings in objects.

Products have more use than just their stated one. They act as symbols. There is meaning attached to our possessions. For example, the Nike swoosh signifies something more than a running shoe; it is a kind of cultural currency that represents a value related to design and its celebrity endorsers.The swoosh is immediately recognized and has value and a rich meaning. When a person buys the brand, they also become advertisements for the brand. 

As we have mentioned we are like actors playing roles in different situations. We have "role identities"

According to the symbolic interactionist perspective, each person potentially has many social selves. Who we are or which self we activate is continually evolving as we respond to new people and situations.


Some products are so important to the role we play that they become part of the extended self

The Extended Self

Extended Self -the definition of self created by the external objects with which one surrounds oneself

Hummergrandma locket

This is part of my extended self: my extended bank account!

or maybe Great Grandma's locket

Four levels of Extended Self

  1. Individual level: personal possessions; jewelry, car, clothes
  2. Family level: residence, furnishings house as body for family
  3. Community level: in terms of your neighbourhood, town, city,
  4. Group Level; social groups, landmarks, monuments, sports teams

Some products are so important to the role we play that they become part of the extended self

Another part of the extended self is our pets...see some ads that show pets who appear quite similar to their owner's self. Cesar Pet Owner Ads (inside link)


Loss of Self can be experienced when things are stolen or possessions no allowed: prison wear, school uniform

People use an individual's consumption behaviours to make judgments about them; example-a person who eats a salad versus a person who eats a big burger; person who wears jeans versus suit-even the type of jeans

Name a valued possession that you are wrapped up in. How much like you is it?

Marketer's make it easy-Want to make a model of yourself and try on clothes? Check out Companies now are using 3D augmented reality mirrors to let you see how a product will look on you. See this example



Does your gender determine the cereal you buy or the soda you purchase?

Do we conform to the cultural expectations of our gender?

Society's assumptions about proper roles are communicated to us in many ways including advertising. Unlike maleness and femaleness masculinity and femininity are not biologic

Sextyping of products is perpetuated by advertising- What products can you think of that are masculine/feminine? Ads can perpetuate cheesecake role of woman or beefcake role of man. Stereotyping - JC Penny: Beware the Doghouse


Gay and lesbian consumers are noticed by marketers more today. Many couples have dual incomes without dependents.

See this early European example the Boy Toy Commercial

Some researchers (Ruth Malone, PhD) believe that the tobacco industry has unethically targeted the gay community which in turn relates to increased smoking in gay men (Gay Health website found 48.5% of gay and bisexual men reported smoking versus 28.6% for straight men)

Advertisers today target gays and lesbians with 6.8% of the US lesbian, gay or bisexual and with $641 buying power, marketers are realize it's takes more than using a rainbow flag in an ad.

For an interesting overview of LGBTQ advertising see The Commercial Closet:The World's Largest Collection of Gay Advertising The organization now is also known as AdRespect

Can you think of recent ads that are more inclusive?

Ad Age has a great list of 2015 Top LGBT themed ads that you can see here.

Read about LGBTQ best practices on the Human Rights Campaign website LGBTQ Marketing and Advertising Best Practices

Men: Gender Roles and Stereotypes

The Metrosexual

Marketers are constantly on the lookout to identify new trends and to label any new target market; in the last decade marketers paid attention to the Metrosexual market defined as a man tough on the inside but soft around the edges: He loves designer clothes, but is comfortable competing in sport but he's not gay. David Beckham the British soccer player is often used as an example- he wears nail polish, changes his hairstyle regularly is married to Posh Spice and doesn't mind being admired by either sex.

Creating a category of metrosexual, created the opporunity to create all sorts of products that men formally did not use.

in 2005 some marketers started to reject the metrosexual pitch for a more politically incorrect pitch with sex, wacky humor and "bad-boy" attitude. Carl's Jr Burger chain has Paris Hilton in their ads and Axe uses the over the top male pitch

In this commercial Bud Lite helps women exchange their metrosexual for a Bud man

2009-10-11 MEN- When men are Men?

According to Ad Age (Sept 21, 2009) Alcohol Advertising began taking a new approach. Ads began to ask men to live by "the Code" of chivalry and say things like, "Damn right your dad drank it" and "Guys never Change" In a rejection of the metrosexual, it is harkening back to the era of Mad Me . People were going out less and drinking at home more. Consumers also were downgrading to lower price. This trend was about "Man Laws." Timeless masculinity is comforting in unstable times. In a recession caused by greed, brands want to be selfless and workmanlike read more

in the 2010 Superbowl Dodge Charger created Man's Last Stand..telling everything a man might do and all for a Charger

2015 Trend The Dad Bod

Today we even see the Dad Bod."He's not 'beach body ready', he eats too much and he hasn't been to the gym recently, but the 'dadbod' is the internet's new favourite male stereotype, says Chris Mandle" See this Australian ad

Stereotyping men?

For years women have complained about being stereotyped. There has been a backlash with organizations --Society for the Prevention of Misandry in the Media - (this one didn't last) and -- coming out complaining about the recurring image in ads of "men as idiots" There's even a blog dedicated to stupid men commercials

Men's Standard's of Beauty Around the World

Male Stereotypes from K3 Hamilton


Body image is the subjective picture or mental image of one's own body. A person's satisfaction of self is linked to their culture's idea of beauty. Physical appearance is a large part of a person's self-concept. Our body image is not always correct; man may feel he is muscular; woman may feel she is fat. Marketing strategies often exploit a consumer's tendency to distort themselves increasing the gap between what is real and imagined

A 2015 report from Common Sense Media found that children as young as 5 are worried about body image. Over 50% girls and 30% of boys 6 to 8  years old think their ideal weight is lower than their current weight.

What products appeal to our fears of body image?

Campaigns can be sneaky-In 2005 a mysterious campaign started appearing with the line "I am Julie"- In the first ad, Julie is floating in gently rippling water: "Last vacation was the first time I ever dared to wear a bikini!" The ads end with "Ask your doctor about Julie's story. Medical treatment options available." What was it all about? It was an ad for a diet drug.

See About Face (outside link) to read about and see examples of stereotyping , objectification, and offensive ads

Female Empowerment

The Beginnings of Femvertising (defined as advertising that employs pro-female talent, messages, and imagery to empower women and girls)

in 2004-5 Dove started a campaign celebrating real women with a Dove website and in August 2005 Nike introduced a campaign also saluting real women and their "big butts, thunder thighs"

See Dove campaign and Dove Onslaught  

Does Dove really care or is it marketing? What do you think?

See a parody here

Read what CMO magazine has to say about the above campaigns Real Beauty- Real Sales?

Ad Age reported in Oct 2009 that German magazine Brigitte as of 2010 they would no longer use models in its pages. Instead they will use real women from various areas, their staff, women readers -see the article The article also talks about French politicians writing legislation that demands that air-brushed photos be identified as such, and as notes that in Spain there is a minimum body-mass index for models.

Thinness: An Obsession!!

Wonderbra: Woman as object




Femvertising is the trend for brands to sell female empowerment. Dove was early on with the movement, but there are now numerous others, that often include hashtags like #unstoppable, # LikeAGirl, #ShineStrong, #InspireHerMind, etc. Joh St., a Toronto agency has parodied the genre.

"To cater to the increasingly popular trend of femvertising, john st. has opened jane st., an agency that specializes in empowering women through advertising. Visit to discover how your brand can leverage girlpower to help boost women’s self-esteem, and most importantly, your bottom line." (source: John St video "Jane St")

Caution: The parody below contains some racy content.


What do you think of the parody? How do you feel about femvertising?

Is beauty universal? (balance. waist hip ratio)

To read about the amazing appearances of the peculiar number 1.618... in nature, the arts, and psychology. See The golden ratio and aesthetics ( )

For an interesting read on the Myth of universal beauty see this BBC article

Has the ideal beauty changed over time?

Marilyn Monroe


thin model

Women's Ideal Body Types Throughout History

As consumers try to match to an ideal, much effort is put into altering the body; diets, surgery, clothing. All these alterations involve spending money, usually buying something or buying into something

What preconceived ideas do we have about hair? What ways do cultures decorate the body? What is acceptable in our culture? How has it changed over the years?

Body decoration may serve functions of separating group members from non members, mark individuals or provide sense of security.

How have marketers influenced these ideas? Is it good or bad? Can we really just be who we are and feel good about it?

Reference as noted above and: Solomon, Michael R., Zaichkowsky, Judith and Rosemary Polegato. Consumer Behaviour: Buying, Having, Being. Canadian Edition. Toronto: Pearson Education Canada



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