The rise of the narcissistic consumer


Narcissism is a rapidly emerging consumer emotion that has the potential of dramati­cally changing how brands interact with their customers. As Kit Yarrow, a leading consumer psychologist stated, “Narcissis­tic behavior is a by-product of the evolv­ing psychology of today’s consumer who is more emotional, self-centered, self-righteous, stressed, and quicker to anger.” She goes on to say that narcissistic rage is triggered when customers feel unappreci­ated or unseen.

The cultural shift from an emphasis on community to an emphasis on self has been exacerbated by social media. Consumers feel pressured to curate a persona that generally elevates them to a higher social standing. When this “fantasized” image fails to provide them with the attention of which they feel deserving, they become stressed and angry and this leads to narcissistic behavior. From a consumer standpoint, this behavior results in a more demanding attitude with expectations of a highly personalized experience that caters to their every whim.

The countermeasure that brands can take in suppressing consumer narcissism is by creating a deep and personalized relation­ship with each customer. As Ms. Yarrow pointed out, “It’s all about admiration marketing.” This starts with understand­ing consumer empathy and ends with pro­viding the customer with an experience where they feel loved, special, and pro­vide them with a sense of belonging.


Over half of consumers experience high levels of stress on a daily basis.

Iceology Research Communities, March 2019


Rather than examining customers in ag­gregate form, brands will have to assess customers individually and create unique­ly tailored relationships and experiences for them that make them feel the brand is speaking directly to them. While this appears to be a daunting task, advancing technology and easier access to customer data will make it possible to implement a successful strategy. Advanced technology, however, has to be supported by the human touch at various points in the consumer relationship journey to further strengthen the admiration and empathy the more narcissistic consumer demands.


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