Jim Cramer’s Cult of Personality

Jim CramerYou almost can’t avoid that face, can you? He’s on three times a day on CNBC hosting Mad Money, plus his book Jim Cramer’s Real Money, featuring his smiling face on the cover, is almost ubiquitous if you go anywhere near the personal finance section of a bookstore. If you’re concerned about your money and seek advice on it, chances are you’ve seen his face plenty of times in the last couple of years.

I make no claims whatsoever about the strength of his stock picks; one should always research their stock picks and not simply blindly follow the advice of others. Nor do I have any comments about his temper issues (besides the fact that they kind of scare me when he starts going crazy on television); those are for him to work out.

What intrigues me about Jim Cramer is the cult of personality that has grown up around him. There are dozens of sites out there that focus on little else but either lauding or criticising this man, whereas there is significantly less attention focused on other stock pickers. Obviously, the difference is Cramer’s persona, that of a caffeine-fueled raging maniac shouting out stock tips and investment advice while storming around on the set hitting sound effect buttons.

What about this persona appeals to people? I am particularly curious about this since Cramer’s topic is personal finance, an issue that usually ties itself to calmness and careful study, not ranging around like a bull in a china closet screaming at viewers. From a non-investor standpoint (take my nephew, for example), Jim Cramer comes off as some sort of lunatic; Mad Money is the only investment show he’ll pay any attention to because of Cramer’s antics.

I guess that alone reveals the truth of the matter: the real appeal is not in the investment advice, but in the entertainment factor. Most listeners and followers of Jim Cramer are not actually tuning in for investment advice. Instead, they’re tuning in to watch his antics. Maybe they’ll remember a ticker symbol or two to look up later, but mostly Jim Cramer is there to entertain. This explains the “cult of personality” around him; he’s like a stock broker version of Britney Spears.

As for me? I’ll take the hour that Cramer is on the air and use it to do my own financial research and writing, perhaps while being entertained by listening to a record by The Shins. As for his book, it’s actually on my reading list, but as for being a member of the “Jim Cramer Army,” count me out.

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