Jason wore a certain shirt and pair of shoes and made statements to his friends that confirmed a particular image. This social strategy is known as image development and marketing.
The image that a person projects is used to market him/herself to others. The clothes students wear, the music they listen to, the language they use with peers, etc., correspond to the image they want to develop and project to others. Students who project a similar image tend to initiate and maintain relationships. Often, the door is open only to others whose image corresponds to that of the group.
Image development and marketing is a complex social and political issue. Many students attempt to be social. Some succeed with their peers, and some are rejected. The latter have almost no choice of role in the social game. Still other students choose to be different, reclusive, eccentric, or simply maintain a low profile. It is important for adults and students to realize that image development and marketing play a role in the lives of all of these students.
Here are some strategies to help students develop their image development and marketing skills.
- Help students get not only a sense of the image(s) they wish to project to their peers, but a sense of comfort with that image. Encourage students to use their strengths and affinities to help market their image.
- Let class members know, through subtle means, that students they have rejected possess strengths and affinities, to increase the possibility that others will seek out these individuals.
- Discuss “marketing” features such as dress, interests, and type of personality that students can use to reflect a given image. Be sure to emphasize that students may have to sacrifice “who they really are” in order to create, market, and sustain an image that is not genuine.
- Encourage classroom discussions, one-on-one conferences, and role-play activities that explore the downsides to being popular, rebellious or friendly with students who do not reflect one’s self-image.
- Encourage an adult or peer to form a relationship with a student who has been rejected by other students. A socially or politically adept student or class leader, for example, may lower the risk of public humiliation experienced by their classmate by providing the student with social guidance, mentoring, and acceptance. Educate students about the need to accept others for their unique qualities.