How to Reach a Narcissist

Narcissism may be the “n” word of this generation, but every generation has had its narcissists. Rome had Nero and Caligula, two of the worse narcissists in history, but even they took a breather now and then. We spew out selfies and tweets faster than a restaurant serving two dollar tacos. Social media is our forum, and forums, as Nero and Caligula were the first to admit, allows for all kinds of indulgences, as long as they play to the masses.

Self-absorbed, distracted by our reflections, we create our own fanfare. In a recent New York Times article, Jane E. Brody says we’re guilty of what The American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual calls, among other things, “…excessive attempts to attract attention.”

Most people blame social media, figuring if it wasn’t there, we wouldn’t do the things we do. As Brody explains, we all have narcissistic traits. What’s turning us into “extreme narcissists” is what could be called “one-upmanship.” Social media is simply making us more competitive.

A family posting pictures of their daughter’s track meet isn’t bragging so much as showing they’re just as proud as the next family. It’s a new type of “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” The unspoken rule is to say, “Wow, congrats on your daughter’s medals!” Return the compliment and you’ve completed the circle.

The “circle” is what makes social media go ‘round. There would be no Facebook or Instagram or Twitter without the day’s tally of “views,” “likes,” and “comments.” A YouTube video doesn’t make the grade unless it’s over 50,000 hits. The Kardashians consider a slam dunk in around the 12 million range. When viewership dips, Kim puts on her tightest dress (as she did last week going to the chiropractor’s) and the numbers go up again. The Kardashians know how to play the game.

The question is, do we know how to play the game? Are we as good at reaching narcissists as we are at being narcissists? It’s too big a market to waste on amateurs and, frankly, traditional research couldn’t break this market down if they tried. Narcissists aren’t easily categorized and they don’t play by the rules. They fall into many categories, each determined by themselves.

As Dr. Joseph Burgo, a clinical psychologist, wrote in his book “The Narcissist You Know” narcissists like to demonstrate their “winner status,” which is why so many are drawn to sports, politics and entertainment. Many fall into the category of “extreme narcissists,” and understanding them goes a long way to figuring out how to reach the narcissist market in general.

Take the young woman who wrote a post recently called “What do we deserve?” In it, she described herself as a 25-year-old female, 5’ 8” tall, weighing in at 132 lbs. with dark brown medium and green/hazel eyes. “I’m flat chested,” she admits, “and the curves I have are built by hours, months and years working out at the gym.”

That sort of commitment is something we all wish we had. But her many hours of training haven’t come without problems (what/ bone spurs, shin splints?). Everywhere she goes, she gets hit on by gawking, forward men.

“What do I deserve?” she asks. “I deserve to be treated like a human, not just a woman. I deserve not to feel silenced by your yells (men’s yells, I guess), to feel sexy in my own skin without feeling like I’m here to bait you.”

She concludes with a professional shot of her in her compression shorts and sports bra, telling people (women) she wants to hear their stories. At last count, she had over six hundred and forty-seven comments, most agreeing they’ve had similar experiences with “the wolves.”

The convergence of experience plays well in this forum, and that may be the secret to “Narcissist Marketing.” It isn’t enough to know this audience. You have to have walked in their shoes (and know the brand of shoes). If you aren’t familiar with compression shorts, for instance, you’d better learn. Nobody spots a casual narcissist faster than an extreme one.

Here are some tips for reaching narcissists:

What do I deserve? Narcissists consider themselves very deserving. Don’t expect them to jump just because you say “Great offer.” They don’t want great offers. They want offers selected specifically for them.

Gimme Quotient: Speed represents the greatest draw to the narcissist. Fast delivery, fast service, fast payment, all appeal to them, the rule of thumb being: can they do the whole transaction on rollerblades?

Am I Right? Narcissists are drawn to other narcissists. To reach them effectively, draw on similar experiences, let them see you’ve been “wolf bait,” too. At the end of your copy, you should be able say, “Am I right?” If they aren’t nodding, there’s no way they’ll trust you with their credit card.

Been There, Done That: A narcissist’s world is made up of experiences they’ve either had or at least thought they’ve had (even if it’s only on social media). Offering them a new adventure is all well and good, but saying so will have them snapping their fingers and head jerking like crazy.

Who’s Looking? Appearances certainly matter to the narcissist (even if it does attract wolves). From their perspective, people should be looking at them (respectfully, of course), so it pays to point out who’s looking, who should be looking, and who will be looking if they make the right purchases.

Is That Me? Nothing thrills a narcissist more than looking better than they think they do already. Whatever you’re selling, invest in mirrors (even print ads should have mirrors). One motto no narcissist can resist: “You can always look better (if that’s even possible).”

Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings: Be careful of heartfelt, sentimental messaging. A Mayo Clinic study found narcissists have trouble relating to the feelings of others. They don’t mind a cute dog, but turning on the waterworks will have most narcissists running for a Calvin Klein ad.

That’s Not Me At All: Don’t try the “This is you” type of marketing. Narcissists don’t mind relating (like, sure I could see myself on that surfboard), but they absolutely hate the idea that you have them “pegged.”

This probably only scratches the surface of “Narcissistic Marketing.” Let me know if you have other insights at rcormack@rogers.com

Robert Cormack is a freelance copywriter, satirist, journalist and novelist. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Press for more details.

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