Marketing and Advertising to the Id, Ego, and Superego

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Id, Ego, and Superego in Marketing and Advertising

According to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, the human psyche is structured into three parts – id, ego, and superego – that develop at different stages of our lives. An individual’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors are the result of the interaction of these three forces; they work together to create complex human behaviors. 
The Id contains our primitive drives and operates largely according to the pleasure principle, whereby its two main goals are the seeking of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. 

According to Freud, the ego develops from the id and ensures that the impulses of the id can be expressed in a manner acceptable in the real world. It operates on the reality principle, which strives to satisfy the id’s desires in realistic and socially appropriate ways.


The superego is the aspect of personality that holds all of our internalized moral standards and ideals that we acquire from both parents and society – our sense of right and wrong. It provides guidelines for making judgments and begins to emerge at the age of five.

Freud believed that people are fundamentally irrational creatures. Rather than reason, our most powerful driving forces are sex, power, and security. At around the time Freud was formulating these ideas, American producers were experiencing a major problem: consumers had yet to develop a hyper-consumerist mindset. Products were still advertised for rational reasons – like durability and quality – instead of emotional ones. Supply was up yet demand was down.

Enter Edward Barnays. Barnays, dubbed the “Father of Public Relations,” took Freud’s ideas and applied it to consumers. If the desire of the psyche is our driving force, then appealing to emotions is the most powerful way of persuading consumers to buy. The premise was to short circuit their rational conscious and target them where they were most vulnerable – the unconscious.
Bernays was renowned for his successful attempts at encouraging women to smoke. Lucky Strike wanted to expand its consumer base, and hired him to help him tap into the female market. Bernays, with the help of a psychoanalyst, determined that women saw cigarettes as a symbol of male power. The “Torches of Freedom” campaign was born, wherein women were encouraged to light up a cigarette and march for women’s rights. Rates of female smoking skyrocketed – Bernays effectively took a product that gave women no real liberation and linked it with the feeling of empowerment.

In a world where there are a vast number of very similar products, and all of our base needs are satisfied, creating a personality for a brand that consumers can emotionally connect with is of profound significance today. Successful advertisers are those that are able to manipulate human motivation and develop a need for goods that consumers are unfamiliar with or initially don’t desire. 
- Leo 


The ego is the system that mediates between the id and the superego. It acts as the referee between temptation and virtue. To reach an audience’s ego, content must be created that helps the consumer positively define themselves to the world. Two exemplary companies that successfully market to a consumer’s ego, but in completely different ways, are Nike and Gatorade. 

Nike’s advertising focuses on ego focused branding. This type of strategy is fully centered on building the customer’s ego. Nike also positions itself as a brand for those who achieve great things and demonstrates that in their ads, “marketing is focused around the user, a user who achieves great things, a user who is on a path to self-betterment and that just so happens to be using Nike products while doing so.” The brand isn't marketed as a product you need to succeed but rather the consumer uses it because they DO succeed.  It’s not seen as a product but rather a way of life.


Gatorade uses a strategy called product focused branding. This strategy differs from Nike’s because instead of lifting up the customer like Nike does, Gatorade plants a seed of doubt in the consumer. Their marketing and advertising focuses on the product and positioning it as something you need to succeed. Gatorade positions itself as a product that empowers the consumer to achieve great things. 


 Source: 602 Communications


Why Sex Sells:

According to Freud, the id is the impulsive part of our psyche that responds immediately to the instincts. It demands instant gratification to experience pleasure and actively avoids pain. One of id’s two major instincts is called Eros, which is the life instinct that motivates people to focus on pleasure-seeking tendencies (e.g., sexual urges). Because it operates on the pleasure principle, which is the idea that every impulse should be satisfied immediately, sex is used in advertisements to gratify this part of the psyche. Therefore, we see why many ads often contain sexual themes or undertones.

- Ashley

Source(s):, Google

Why normal sells:

Recently, there has been a rise in the marketing of average consumers through general advertisements and real campaigns. American Eagle’s most recent campaign titled “Aerie” focuses on illustrating image advertisements that are un-retouched, thus showcasing real women and their natural beauty.  

This particular campaign appeals to the id of individuals since consumers are able to view themselves in the ad representative and receive great pleasure from witnessing average individuals be a more realistic representation of the public.

The general rise of average consumer marketing and real campaigns is due to the positive response of consumers themselves. Consumers are able to relate to these ad individuals and feel better about themselves as a person. 
- Sandy 
Source: Huffington Post 


The superego is the counterbalance to the id. Essentially, the superego is the consumer’s conscience; it internalizes the society’s values and morals and sets the parameters for socially acceptable behavior. The superego was developed to try and prevent the id from seeking selfish gratification. For example, United Airlines designed an advertisement that displays the difference between the id and the superego. This ad focuses on the conflict between the desire for gratification (represented by the id) and the need to engage in rational, task-oriented activities (represented by the superego). United Airlines successfully implemented the use of the id and the superego into their advertisement to display the differences between the two and attract both mindsets. – Chelsea

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