Intermediaries and Personas: A Radical Rhetorical Reading of Marketing Work
Keywords:Jung, persona, marketing, value, rhetoric, suspicion
This article examines the various ways in which marketing work (in both 'practice' and scholarship) engages with the construction of personas. It positions marketing as a rhetorical enterprise concerned with the establishment of intermediary and liminal positions within society; positions which are designed, as in Jung's description of the persona, to "make a definite impression upon others [...and...] to conceal the true nature of the individual" (Jung 1972, p. 192) in order to facilitate social integration. An initial close reading of Jung's work on the persona provides the context for a portrayal of the extreme tensions between organisational/disciplinary/professional identity and persona in modern marketing work. The article examines the long history of anxiety that marketers have manifested regarding the reputation of their practice, the 'morality' and 'scientific' ethos of their unavoidably relativistic approach to truth and identity, and their focus on the construction of appearance/persona for commercial or political advantage. Finally, if the urge to create personas comes from needing to consistently portray the roles that society expects us to adopt (whether that be parson, cobbler or poet, to use Jung's examples), what happens to a discipline and profession which is so focused on the dynamic re-creation, re-assignment and re-invention of personas? The work argues that the distrust that marketing experiences at the hands of mainstream society illustrates the way in which the maintenance of a consistent persona, 'standing at one's post' (to use Jung's terminology), remains one of the most uncomfortable and contested aspects of modern life.
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