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November 2013

Brands and The Psychopath Test

Brodericks

I recently read Jon Ronson's book The Psychopath Test, in which he explores the prevalence of psychopathic tendencies among some of the most successful people in society. He writes in detail about the Hare PCL-R checklist, which lists 20 traits associated with psychopathy and has been the basis for most diagnoses over the years. While studying the list, I couldn't help wondering how most brands would score. 

I don't mean this in a glib '20 ways brands are like xxxxxx' way. I mean that brands arguably make more sense when you think of them as psychopaths and respond to them accordingly.

That's not an aspersion against anyone connected with the creation of specific brands, but a comment on the peculiar status of brands in general. Brands exist as separate legal entities from the rest of us and possess a life of their own. They could be considered a superior life form, in the sense that Coca Cola will be around long after the rest of us have gone. By their nature, brands display a lot of superficially positive human characteristics, including charm, slickness and facility with words. But they are also necessarily incapable of empathy and remorse, and especially prone to an inflated sense of self-worth.

Here's a verbatim list of the 20 psychopathic traits (underlinings are mine), with some illustrative examples. There could be countless examples for points one and two in particular. 

1. Glib and Superficial Charm
The tendency to be smooth, engaging, charming, slick, and verbally facile. Psychopathic charm is not in the least shy, self-conscious, or afraid to say anything. A psychopath never gets tongue-tied. They have freed themselves from the social conventions about taking turns in talking, for example. 

Bravenewmalden


2. Grandiose Self-Worth
A grossly inflated view of one's abilities and self-worth, self-assured, opinionated, cocky, a braggart. Psychopaths are arrogant people who believe they are superior human beings. 

Starbucks13. Need for Stimulation or Proneness to Boredom           
An excessive need for novel, thrilling, and exciting stimulation; taking chances and doing things that are risky. Psychopaths often have a low self-discipline in carrying tasks through to completion because they get bored easily. They fail to work at the same job for any length of time, for example, or to finish tasks that they consider dull or routine.      

Yahoo1


4. Pathological Lying           
Can be moderate or high; in moderate form, they will be shrewd, crafty, cunning, sly, and clever; in extreme form, they will be deceptive, deceitful, underhanded, unscrupulous, manipulative, and dishonest.  

Adamhess1


5. Conning and Manipulativeness           
The use of deceit and deception to cheat, con, or defraud others for personal gain; distinguished from Item #4 in the degree to which exploitation and callous ruthlessness is present, as reflected in a lack of concern for the feelings and suffering of one's victims.

 


6. Lack of Remorse or Guilt           
A lack of feelings or concern for the losses, pain, and suffering of victims; a tendency to be unconcerned, dispassionate, coldhearted, and unempathic. This item is usually demonstrated by a disdain for one's victims.

Tesco


7. Shallow Affect           
Emotional poverty or a limited range or depth of feelings; interpersonal coldness in spite of signs of open gregariousness.           

Pinterest


8. Callousness and Lack of Empathy     
      
A lack of feelings toward people in general; cold, contemptuous, inconsiderate, and tactless

Aapparel


9. Parasitic Lifestyle           
An intentional, manipulative, selfish, and exploitative financial dependence on others as reflected in a lack of motivation, low self-discipline, and inability to begin or complete responsibilities. 

Virgin


10. Poor Behavioral Controls           
Expressions of irritability, annoyance, impatience, threats, aggression, and verbal abuse; inadequate control of anger and temper; acting hastily.           

Waitrose


11. Promiscuous Sexual Behavior           
A variety of brief, superficial relations, numerous affairs, and an indiscriminate selection of sexual partners; the maintenance of several relationships at the same time; a history of attempts to sexually coerce others into sexual activity or taking great pride at discussing sexual exploits or conquests.

Passion


12. Early Behavior Problems           
A variety of behaviors prior to age 13, including lying, theft, cheating, vandalism, bullying, sexual activity, fire-setting, glue-sniffing, alcohol use, and running away from home. 

Ella

13. Lack of Realistic, Long-Term Goals           
An inability or persistent failure to develop and execute long-term plans and goals; a nomadic existence, aimless, lacking direction in life

Andrex


14. Impulsivity           
The occurrence of behaviors that are unpremeditated and lack reflection or planning; inability to resist temptation, frustrations, and urges; a lack of deliberation without considering the consequences; foolhardy, rash, unpredictable, erratic, and reckless.           

Bmw1

15. Irresponsibility           
Repeated failure to fulfill or honor obligations and commitments; such as not paying bills, defaulting on loans, performing sloppy work, being absent or late to work, failing to honor contractual agreements.

Barclays


16. Failure to Accept Responsibility for Own Actions
           
A failure to accept responsibility for one's actions reflected in low conscientiousness, an absence of dutifulness, antagonistic manipulation, denial of responsibility, and an effort to manipulate others through this denial.

           


17. Many Short-Term Marital Relationships    
       
A lack of commitment to a long-term relationship reflected in inconsistent, undependable, and unreliable commitments in life, including marital.      

Fd

18. Juvenile Delinquency      
     
Behavior problems between the ages of 13-18; mostly behaviors that are crimes or clearly involve aspects of antagonism, exploitation, aggression, manipulation, or a callous, ruthless tough-mindedness.

Fanny


19. Revocation of Condition Release   
        
A revocation of probation or other conditional release due to technical violations, such as carelessness, low deliberation, or failing to appear.     

Gap

20. Criminal Versatility           
A diversity of types of criminal offenses, regardless if the person has been arrested or convicted for them; taking great pride at getting away with crimes.Hillsborough

 

Sources/links:

Broderick’s bars
Treacle Moon – via @bravenewmalden
Starbuck’s Mission Statement
Yahoo 30 logos in 30 days
Hall’s – via @adamhess1
Nivea
Tesco
Pinterest – via @underwoodsimon
American Apparel
Virgin Media
Waitrose
Passion – various Google images results
Ella’s Kitchen
Andrex
BMW Mini Cooper
Barclays
Halifax
First Direct – via @totalcontent
Irn Bru
Gap logo withdrawn
Newsworks 'Hillsborough/hacking' campaign