It is no surprise that the office hero, for having the highest emotional intelligence, is the marketer in the room. Yes, with social feeds streaming from their fingertips and CTRs putting avocado in the salad, these are the minds finely attuned to what makes humans tick…
Feeling good about yourself are you Ms/Mr Marketer? I’m afraid you have been lassoed in by the irresistible hook that is ego-driven marketing. Indeed, our choice of title was structured to appeal directly to your ego by being flattering, while erring on the side of somewhat believable. After all, much of marketing is about trying to get into other people’s heads, so we would hope as marketers you have some level of emotional intelligence. However, whether it is the highest EQ in the office is an argument we’ll leave to be had over after work drinks!
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What is ego-driven marketing? – “This is the Ladbrokes Life”
Before we pick apart the mechanics of appealing to the consumer’s ego, have a look at an advertisement that may be familiar to you:
There is a lot happening in this advertisement, but what is uniform throughout is that every second of it is dripping in ego-driven marketing tactics. While the lone cowboy saving the small town before setting off by himself into the sunset stirs the traditional male desire for dignity, heroism and a higher purpose, “This is the Ladbrokes Life” instead triggers the desire for community, friendship, a sense of belonging and of being a valued member within a group. Betting with Ladbrokes is shown to be less about winning or losing money due to placing a bet, and even less to do with sport, but rather there is an appeal being made to the ego’s desire for community. The slogan could just as easily have been, Friends who bet together, stay together.
What drives consumer desire?
The human desire for the company of other human beings is what knits communities across the globe. It is what brings two strangers together to form a family and, equally, it is what causes a lonely individual to wake in the middle of the night and turn to social media for comfort. The significance of this is illustrated in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
This pyramid structure shows how our needs begin with the physiological and when these needs are met we subsequently are motivated by different stages of psychological needs. In today’s western society, the majority of a consumer’s basic needs have been met and therefore, advertisers and marketers now appeal to psychological needs.
Old friends – marketing and psychoanalysis
If Sigmund Freud’s name has been reaching out from your subconscious while reading this blog, then you know that the idea of appealing to consumer desires and needs is derived directly from psychoanalytical theory. In fact, Edward Bernays (1891 – 1995), a man famous for his influential advertising campaigns and considered the father of public relations, was the nephew of Freud himself. He stated that, “If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without them knowing it.” He did not only believe this to be true for marketing, but all aspects of human society, particularly politics.
With a broad view of political tensions at the time and the need for a wider consumer base for cigarettes, Bernays spotted a golden opportunity. In the 1920s, a woman smoking was considered unattractive and even immoral. However, for the American Tobacco Company, this was simply an untapped market. In his advertising campaign, Bernays appealed to women’s need for equality by moulding cigarettes to be “Torches for Freedom”. The cigarette, which had been a sign of masculinity, now became a symbol for the emancipation of women, which was consolidated when Bernays paid women to march in protest at the 1929 Easter Sunday Parade in New York by smoking their cigarettes in public.
“Marketers – if your EQ is below 90 you might want to consider a new career”
Of course, appealing to the ego does not always reveal itself in the form of flattery. In fact, triggering doubt in the consumer’s mind can be just as persuasive. This is a popular technique because it tends to keep the marketing campaign product focused – if you don’t use our product your life is incomplete or lesser in some way. The Febreeze, “Are you Noseblind?” campaign is a humorous example of this:
The advertisement’s message is clear: with Febreeze, your nasty odours disappear, you don’t get into trouble with your mother and you can continue playing your PlayStation game. Without Febreeze, you and your bedroom smell, we can assume your mother will not be at all pleased which may result in otherwise avoidable hassle. Febreeze not only keeps everything smelling nice, but it keeps life positive, hence the slogan Breathe Happy.
The ego driving social media
Marketers who use these techniques are not reinventing the wheel; rather they are consciously practising what many people naturally do in their own daily lives. In The New York Times ‘Psychology of Sharing report’, it was found that two of the main reasons people share content on social media are driven by motivations directly related to the ego:
- For social validation and to define themselves to others
- To feel self-fulfilled by getting positive reactions from others
LinkedIn designed a clever marketing campaign based on such an observation. In 2012, they contacted every one of their members who were in the top 1% or 5% of viewed profiles to congratulate them. This content was made easily shareable so people could let their friends be aware of their “achievement”. What LinkedIn kept quiet was that because they are a very popular social media account, being in the top 5% made you a part of a club consisting of 10 million people! What was the ultimate purpose of the marketing campaign? To give users the option to pay to see who had viewed their profile.
LinkedIn successfully tapped into a user behaviour that was already occurring and made it profitable. If users are more likely to share content that reflects an aspect of themselves that they want people in their social circle to know about, then it then makes sense to provide this kind of content. This is also the foundation for successful brand creation. A brand should not only express what the company wants to say about themselves, but it should communicate a concept and/or feeling the target consumer would want to associate themselves with.
Have you used ego-driven marketing tactics before? Check out our blog Marketing: truth, lies and grey areas to get our opinion on controversial marketing techniques in the era of fake news, or you could simply get in contact with us and ask!