Archive for October, 2011

The role of the ego-states becomes a factor to consider by the marketer. Just as the consumer wants to satisfy the demands of each of his egos, so does the marketer need to assure that satisfaction; i.e. successful sales depend on addressing the needs of the Id and the Superego while providing the Ego enough reasons to choose between these extremities.

We gave the example in the previous post of how you might zero-in on your new Ferrari: The Id might want to choose the emotive (brand/heritage) and the sensorial (upholstery and color), while the Superego would come into play in choosing the factors that are beyond our control – the after-sales service, the condition of the roads where it will be driven, and others. In short – the Id would choose the irrational or the self-satisfying, while the Superego would choose through logic and on the basis of extraneous factors. Here, again, the Ego would come into play in weighing the pros and cons of the demands posed by either of the other two.

A lot of this satisfaction depends, of course, on the nature of the product. Staying with our given example, we do find that Ferraris come in colors that you wouldn’t find on a sedan – red, yellow and orange are part of the Id satisfaction in a Ferrari, black and mint-green aren’t! Even when delivered to the client, Ferrari, like most cars in that price range, makes a ceremony around the event – the Id is satisfied all the way through. Of course, in the event of a breakdown, here too the issues related to the Superego (after-sales service) are conducted in a manner that adds to the Id-satisfying Ferrari experience: the repair team comes to your house, and leaves you a replacement.

At another, more everyday level, we spoke earlier of how choosing between chocolates would depend on whether we want to consume it ourselves in the next 10 minutes (Id-satisfaction) or offer it to our in-laws-to-be (Superego satisfaction – extraneous needs coming first). The marketer would provide you with both options, and this would reflect in all aspects of the product – right down to whether or not you find it in the exiting aisles of the store, or in the interior, perhaps next to other gifts.

These are the questions to ask: In how many ways can my product serve as an Id-, Ego-, or Superego-satisfier? What aspects can we change, modify or promote to push it in a particular direction?

Necessarily, the responses to the questions will have implications on the many P’s of marketing.

Which brings us to the question: How are the 3 ego-states related to the pricing of a product?


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Product categories can be categorized as Id-, Ego- and/or Superego-satisfiers. Within categories, it is natural that the same categorization differentiates one product from another. The same logic of the 3 ego-states comes into play when choosing between any short-listed set of products.

Consider having to choose between 3 high-performance sports cars. While the Ferrari and the Lamborghini and the Lotus would make up one set, offerings from the Porsche, the Audi and the BMW could make up another. While both sets are Id-satisfiers vis-à-vis most other cars, even these two sets would be differentiated on the basis of their rational factors (e.g. state of roads where used, or Ego-satisfaction) and their economic criteria (e.g. cost, ease of maintenance, fuel consumption, or Superego-satisfaction).

Again, within a Ferrari, Lamborghini and a Lotus, you might have different reasons to want one over the other – product heritage, or brand associations would be the Id-satisfiers at play, while other, more rational factors would bring in the Superego in the process of decision making.

And should you have made your choice, how are you going to choose which Ferrari it will be? While you might want to focus on the particular engine and its performance parameters, you might want to leave the lesser choices, like the colour and the finish of the interiors to your wife or girl-friend. Again, you’d be making the Superego decisions, while she would choose the Id-satisfiers!

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It is one thing to judge and predict consumer behaviour, but quite another to hazard a guess on what it takes to set up industry in India.

One always has an inkling about what works and what doesn’t, and the many success stories one comes across (many heard from the horses’ mouths, when dealing with Indian conglomerates) offer good insight. But there are few pointers that one can really put down as “the 3 or 4 things you should really know when setting up industry in India”.

But the recent report about how the India-born Jyothy Laboratories turned around the Indian operations of Henkel’s FMCG arm offers insights that even I, as an Indian, am happy to discover. While the story of the turnaround, in itself, seems like a simple case of post-event analysis, and the steps taken by Jyothy seem to be the most logical in fixing what was a flawed operation, let us not forget that Henkel’s start was the classic approach an MNC could take in India (and no, Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser and P&G don’t count as such – they have been here too long to adopt MNC strategies in India). And the failure of such strategy is linked to classic truths about India that we cannot ignore. In sum:

1.       Treat India as a union of States, rather than as a single trade zone

Think of India as you would think of Europe or the US. Every State has its own natural resources, customs, ways of working and, most importantly, trade tariffs, taxes and duties. While passing through one State to another with raw materials or processed goods can be a nightmare, setting up industry in either can be a dream – almost all State governments will roll out the red-carpet, even if they cannot offer you the resources. Pick and choose the most optimal option. Jyothy, like Unilever and the other big players, understands this only too well – their products are made and packaged simultaneously in different parts of the country. Even India’s largest cigarette brands are made in different centres. The most common example of this heterogeneous-location production-distribution is, of course, bottling plants for soft-drink majors.  Henkel made the mistake of wanting to operate from a single manufacturing location, albeit with the good intention of quality control. They lost out on the logistics front, but could they have foreseen an India-entry with many ancillary units? Perhaps not! (Of course, such a strategy might not work for all kinds of industries, but let us not forget that even the Airbus is manufactured in parts, in different European countries, before being assembled in France.)

2.       Don’t look for infrastructure; work without it

As Rama Bijapurkar points out in her book We are like that only, India might be a new  market, but it has an ancient history when it comes to trade and commerce.

So, banks might not exist, but banking always has! While no MNC would think of giving cash up front to suppliers of raw materials, an Indian operator would. Think about it: The Indian daily-wage worker (out in an open pit mine) is not likely to have a bank account – s/he has to be paid on the day, else s/he will work for the person who can provide the daily cash flow. And again, the operations of the said mine might not even be on an electricity grid – only cash again will pay for the diesel for the generators that run the operations. Even high up on the chain – between the retailer, the distributor and the wholesaler of Henkel’s products – all transactions are likely to be in cash, which is flowing in from the consumer on a daily basis. You might want to introduce banking operations in the process, but few will want to be a part of it; it is just too tedious and the time lapses are not worth slowing down the process.

While on infrastructure, and the question of skilled manpower: Rest assured that you are not likely to find it easily. Most Indian industrial homes have educational institutions to their credit – these were not born so much out of charity, as from a need to find their engineers and even technicians easily. Even now, if you were to set up a project that needed skilled or semi-skilled labour in some Indian hinterland, what would you do? Displace hundreds from distant areas, or train them on the spot? The HPCL-Mittal refinery in Punjab is training their semi-skilled labour on the job, all recruited from the nearby villages. One way in which they amortise their costs is to complete the training process by awarding diplomas, by becoming accredited with the government as an educational institution. They retain the best workers, while the rest have their own reward. That itself attracts labour! The recent move by Volkswagen, to set up a training school for automotive engineers in Pune is one that will have far reaching repercussions. They could well have bemoaned the lack of trained manpower, and let time take its course in bringing up the automotive industry in India up to speed, but by training the manpower they need, right now, is the right way.

3.       Never forget, Indians are entrepreneurs by nature

This point is beautifully illustrated by Guy Sorman in his book The Genius of India. He gives the example of how a poor Indian, if in no way employable, will invest in a few utensils and a stove to set up a tea-stall in a busy marketplace; or start any such simple trade that earns him enough to live with.

We might think that Jyothy Laboratories is as entrepreneurial as any Indian company can be, but let us not forget all those who were willing to get entrepreneurial in the process: Not just the trucker who will organise it so his fleet doesn’t have to return empty or resort to tramping, but even the sales-force which is ready to work to incentives, rather than for perks. But the real honours go to the owners of the new manufacturing units who are capable of meeting quality standards at par with the best in the Indian FMCG industry.

Surely, there would be many other factors when it comes to setting up business and industry in India. But these would be the kind common to many other Third World countries. Your inputs and experiences would be welcome!

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Consider this: Why is hotel linen always white (or thereabouts)? What is the one feature that both the PC and the Mac borrowed from elsewhere, and will stay with both forever? In cars, what is the colour for indicators and what is it for brake lights?

In making many purchase decisions, we are forced by the constraints of external circumstances. These external forces can be either or both, societal or economic. Planning a product that defies this is the surest recipe for disaster as a marketer or product designer. These external forces define “Superego-satisfiers”.

So, the PC and the Mac had to borrow from the typewriter keyboard – it would be unthinkable to try to reinvent it! Ditto for car indicators and brake lamps. Hotel linen has to be white (and even these whites are separated in the laundry, depending on the nuances) – it tells customers, at a glance, that the sheets are clean, and also because white is the only colour that fades into itself.

We tend to refer to the former as institutional purchases, but in fact these are decisions that have to be made keeping in mind other people – hence, the Superego. Here the mindset shifts from the Id’s “I, me, myself” to issues related to others, and the role the product has to play for another, bigger function (often economic needs).

This mindset is also seen when a parent is buying shoes for a child. Here the parent is driven less by the child’s fancies, but more by the practical aspects of the purchase: What kind of use will they be subject to? How long will they last? How soon before they are outgrown? How easy are they to put on, by the child himself? Hence, the Superego can be found even if it be a case of gifting. We saw that chocolates are impulse purchases, but what happens when you need to carry a box of these on your first visit to your potential in-laws?

This is classic Superego thinking, and in referring to such purchases as “Superego-satisfiers” we are able to capture more accurately the mindset of the buyer at the time of purchase, and even design products accordingly.

In sum: Think rules of the road and maritime conventions, long-term financial investments, weights and measures (US or Imperial gallons; or the mks system?). Think education, reverse engineered vehicles (tractors without shock-absorbers or differentials, trucks with steering wheels that force the driver to be attentive), aircraft cock-pits (all manufacturers retain similarities between one model and the next, to make it easier for pilots to upgrade – within the brand, of course!) and more.

And ask yourself, what changes could you make to your product so it meets the needs of the Superego, assuming, of course, that it is not an Id satisfier? But then again, could your Id-satisfier also have Superego applications?


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If the Id, Ego and Superego influence all human volition (including the will to purchase), then they should be reflected in marketing terms as well. As we see, they do, to confirm the first part of our hypothesis: All products (categories) are necessarily Id-, Ego- and/or Superego satisfiers.

Given that the 3 ego-states are closer to human behavior, they should also offer better definitions – be less ambiguous, encompass products and behaviors that otherwise cannot be described, and more – when defining products.

 Impulse purchases

The Id is about impulsive, self-satisfying behavior. It is not rational or deliberate behavior – it is about doing what pleases the individual the most. It flies in the face of logic, and by definition, is contrary to social norms.

Much as we might grow into rational adults, we cannot ignore the fact that we often make purchases that might be absolutely irrational in nature. The Id (or the Child in us) represents our impulses towards self gratification, and “impulse purchases” are nothing more than the Id manifesting itself in the purchase process.

But while the term “impulse purchase” lends itself to certain products (and often those that are of low value), there are many more purchases that are marked by all the characteristics of the Id – the need for self gratification, with lack of reason – and few of these have any real classification in present-day advertising.

Purchases like cigarettes, alcohol, perfumes, cosmetics, fashion, cinema, restaurants, and other such product categories, cannot be “rationalized” as necessary purchases, and enough argument can also be provided in favor of cheaper or more generic alternatives.

(Some practitioners call them “emotional purchases”, and this is also true – the Id is about emotion, after all! But defining these as Id-satisfiers provides us a link with both – the nature of the consumer and the product as well. It is no longer a yuppie nail polish bought by a working-class woman; it is now an Id-satisfier that is satisfying the buyers Id, no matter who the buyer is. This, we shall see, is important in the process of planning and positioning products.

(If one were to rationalize, and say that within one’s social circle, it is impossible to be seen with less than a particular brand of whiskey, or a particular brand of jeans, then we can also say that Id purchases are also a function of peer pressure – an irrational pressure again!)

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If the Id, Ego and Superego come into play in every aspect of our lives, there is every reason to believe that they should influence our behavior as consumers as well!

Conventional psychoanalysis states that we suppress the impulses of the Id to conform to the demands of the society (the Superego). Our behavior as consumers follows more or less the same pattern.

We might want to sing out loud in the street (satisfy the Id), but convention (the Superego) dictates that we behave correctly. Speeding down the road (Id satisfaction) but having to respect speed limits (the control of the societal Superego) is more or less the same.

We might want to live off a diet of chocolate, but we also have doctor’s orders. Chocolates are not likely to take precedence on our shopping list, and supermarkets will not place them, either, so that they take precedence over our staples.

Society wants us to dress according to occasion and convention; we buy our clothes depending on whether they are for work or leisure.

The list of controls (Superego) and the list of desires (the demands of the Id) can be built endlessly, but what we will always find is that as consumers our choices are limited by our willingness to conform or not – ergo, the Id and the Superego determine to what extent we will make our choices, with the rational Ego being the faculty that helps us make a decision towards one extreme or another.

But what products are more likely to belong to which category? This, we shall see, is not difficult to define!

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(The reconciliation of the impulses of the Id with the demands of the Superego (the two extremes of desire, and often in conflict with each other), is the basis of all individual behaviour. There is no reason to believe that this should not also hold true for all “purchase behaviour”.)

Imagine a baby, the mother and their pet dog in a room. The child is tempted to play with the animal the way a baby would – tugging at its ears, tail, or fur. While the animal may be a part of the family, and even pacific by nature, the mother may intervene and prevent the child from being too harsh with the pet, for fear of the animal reacting.

            Here, the child represents the Id in its purest form. All humans are born as bundles of Id, unconcerned with anything except personal gratification. This bundle of Id doesn’t know, even, the difference of good and bad – it will revel in its own excreta – there is absolute absence of any form of reason.

            This individuality of the baby (Id) is sharply contrasted by the demands of the mother, the control imposed on the self-gratifying child. She represents the Superego, or the norms of society, created by experience collected over time.

            Let us assume that the child eventually does get bitten by the dog. Now even the baby knows, vis-à-vis the dog, what his actions can lead to. In the future, it will approach the dog with more than caution. The baby has learnt to reason, and this reasoning, between the two extremes of the self-seeking id and the imposed superego, is the ego, the rational aspect of the reasoning mind. It represents the individual’s logical functions, which allow for independence from the demands of both the id and the superego.

            These three aspects of the human psyche exist in each individual for all time to come, albeit with variations which can be linked to the nature of the society, culture, family and personal experiences and/or preferences. And these three aspects are the ones that influence all our decisions, including those linked to purchase of products or services.

            Once again, we can reiterate our hypothesis if human behavioris subject to the pressures of the Id, Ego and Super Ego, then these three ego states should influence our purchase behavior as well. Let us now see how these three aspects can be related to the process of marketing and advertising.

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