The ancient Greeks prized self-knowledge greatly. Know Thyself was inscribed above the entrance of the Temple of Apollo at the sacred site of Delphi.
And modern philosophers from Schopenhauer to Lou Reed pretty much concur, the attainment of self-knowledge is a prerequisite for the pursuit of happiness.
A pursuit that may prove tricky when our zeitgeist is not conducive to quiet contemplation.
Who cares, seeing ourselves is way more fun than knowing ourselves.
We enjoy seeing ourselves on Facebook, YouTube, and of course in selfies.
I used to think the charm of selfies was a result of their arm's length limitations.
Clearly, not everyone agrees, enter the selfie stick to ensure our selfies are flawlessly focussed in HD.
Our narcissism appears to be boundless, there’s even a selfie stick company called narcisstick.
With or without a selfie stick, we capture our own images like never before.
We walk around with phones full of them.
But as we focus on ourselves more, do we know ourselves less?
This isn’t entirely a philosophical question.
Because if, we’re worse at knowing ourselves, how as marketers does this affect our insight into the minds of consumers?
Perhaps it doesn’t, maybe self-knowledge has nothing to do with understanding consumer behaviour.
Maybe, but I doubt it, because empathy is key to understanding other people’s behaviour.
And how can we learn empathy if not through self-awareness.
John E. Kennedy called advertising, “Salesmanship in print.”
And as any good salesman will tell you, the foundation of salesmanship is asking the right questions in the right order.
This is an entirely rational process where empathy is required to see a situation from a prospects point of view.
Kennedy was writing in 1908, today salesmanship in pixels is more apt, but the fundamentals have changed less than we may think.
A more modern and opposite take is Daniel Kahneman’s assertion in his inspirational book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, that consumer behaviour is largely irrational.
The truth lays somewhere in the middle.
As Ad Contrarian points out in a brilliant post, just as light can simultaneously be a wave and a particle, consumers can act rationally and irrationally in the same moment.
The selfie stick embodies their duality perfectly, and also allows them to capture the moment for posterity.