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Posts Tagged ‘market segmentation’

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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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 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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Ever since advertising and marketing became “scientific”, consumer profiling has been done in many forms, with the eventual purpose of understanding the buyer’s motivations.

But while most methodologies for consumer analysis are based on sociological studies, with an aim to predict consumer behavior, we might be better off if consumer analysis be done on the basis of those tenets by which all human motivation is studied, given that these tenets should hold true even for the “motivation to purchase”.

Let us, then, see what might emerge if marketing terminologies were taken from the field of psychology, and if there emerges a different way to connect with the consumer.

Hypothesis

For empirical reasons, let us choose only the Id, the Ego and the Super-Ego, as defined by Sigmund Freud, as the basis of this new method of consumer analysis.

If three ego states are at the base of all human motivation (there being no fourth), then we can state that:

  1. All products and services are essentially Id-, Ego- and/or Super Ego Satisfiers, and
  2. Within any product category, there can be only three kinds of products, viz., Id-, Ego- and/or Super Ego Satisfiers.

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Mrs Indira Gandhi drank Lipton’s Green Label tea at breakfast and used Lux – the soap – to wash her hands.

Even when this was revealed by a doting press to her doting electorate, there was little about Mrs Gandhi that was not already known – given her illustrious father, even her early life was better chronicled than that of any contemporary leader, and her public standing left little she could hide.

Yet, if she were the target person for any advertising campaign at the time, ad agency planners would have picked up on these new little bits of information and included them as “nuggets” in the brief. These, they’d be sure, would reveal insights about her that simple demographic profiling could not.

Using the systems in vogue at the time (the mid-to-late ’70s), such “insights” would reveal what other things she was most likely to buy. Given that she used top-of-the-line products across two categories, they would have assumed that Mrs Indira Gandhi would also favour the top-of-the-line cars that existed. And given that lesser people drove the best imports of the day, she too would possibly choose a Mercedes Benz, at least.

She didn’t. She drove in a “Made in India” Ambassador, a vehicle that owed its design and technology to the engineering of almost two decades earlier. She gave her reasons: She wanted to show her faith in Indian industry.
So, were the ad agency planners off the mark with their “Values and Lifestyle System” (VALS) for analysing consumers? Did they really have an insight on Mrs Gandhi – the choice of car being a mere aberration?

We still do not know. We do not know whether she drank her brand of tea because it was the best that money could buy, or because she had a delicate constitution. Similar reasoning could be given for her choice of hand soap. Nor did such profiling reveal her opinions about other teas and soaps.

A decade later, the same planners were sure they had another, sure-fire way to profile consumers. Mrs Indira Gandhi could hence be judged on the basis of her “psychographic profile”. Soaps like Lifebuoy could be advertised to her, she being a “single, working-mother of two”; stronger teas could well be positioned to fit in with her having an “active” lifestyle, and better cars for her comfort, given her “CEO” profile.

All in all, it wouldn’t have changed a thing. Her motivations of being a mother did not get her to choose another, “more hygienic” soap; her energetic lifestyle did not change her choice of morning stimulant; and neither did her status make her want a fancier car.

What we can be sure of, however, is that while demographic or psychographic profiling helps us create clusters that look good in boardrooms, they do not guarantee any link between products and users. Stretch the problem into newer markets – as with the process of globalization – and we’re on even thinner ice: we do not know who will choose our product and for what reason.

What we can be sure of is that a new way of looking at consumer and product segmentation is required.

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