To understand the psychoanalysis theory formulated by Freud, we must understand what psychoanalysis really entails. According to Freud, psychoanalysis was the study of deep human behavioral functionality and mental control. These ideas were studied under the context of human subjects, and were later adapted to the society as a whole in the form of generalized ideas. The key behind the theory was to formulate an understanding on how the human mind functions and how it affects our daily lives. What motivates us to do, to perform, and to continue our general survival were some of the questions that Freud asked.
His theory on psychoanalysis is, in short, a theory of human behavior. This paper will discuss the theory in adequate strength upon which marketing perspectives will be applied to understand how human behavior shapes advertising in the modern world. The paper will seek to underline Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis, and build upon it with a critical analysis of how useful Freud’s views have been to marketers in understanding human (consumer) behavior; in the light of advertising. Freud’s Theory of Psychoanalysis: The Conscious and Unconscious mind:
To understand the theory, it is important to develop the relationship and understand of the words “consciousness mind” and “unconsciousness mind” in light of Sigmund Freud (Berry, 2000) . These two words were the building blocks for his theory, and therefore, and clear distinction must be made between the two. According to Freud, the conscious mind was the part of the brain that signaled awareness. What he meant to underline was the fact that a segment of the brain is actively and rationally aware of its surroundings.
For instance, a human’s ability to process memory, bring it to a point of recall and then store it for later use; this is a fundamental example of a conscious mind (Murphy, 2001). However, an unconscious mind was one which harbored feelings, emotions and memories that were not as easily recallable as they were in the conscious mind. These feelings, according to Freud, signified an important role in human behavior because they played a role in shaping human behavior (Berry, 2000).
Though the conscious mind might not be aware of it, but, according to Freud, the hidden feelings and emotions present in the unconscious mind were also affecting the behavior pattern of an average human being. The states of mind can be further elaborated in light of Freud through his research. According to him; there are three states of consciousness exhibited by a human brain. These three states are in actuality; three segments of the brain (Murphy, 2001). 1) Conscious 2) Pre-Conscious 3) Sub-Conscious The conscious part, as explained earlier deals with everything we are aware of.
The human mind understands processes and is attentive in this segment of the brain. However, when dealing with pre conscious segments, it is important to understand that it also contains all the same elements as the conscious mind. However, there is one important difference; attentiveness. According to Freud; the human brain in pre consciousness is aware of the surroundings but is not attentive towards them. However, he also stated that a human mind can be selective about the awareness levels and stimuli that are at preconscious level, can be bought into the conscious level (Murphy, 2001).
This single point is the most important for distinguishing between preconscious minds and the subconscious mind. Content processing being undertaken in the subconscious is not in reach of the conscious. Thus, the subconscious level of the brain can be thought to be independent. According to Freud; most behavior stems directly from the subconscious mind; something we cannot control. The Pre-Oedipal Stage: Freud categorized his entire theories on the premise that no behavior was meaningless. In fact, according to him, every behavior a human mind exhibits is backed by a power sense of goal orientation.
Therefore, understanding this behavior becomes easier; given there is a reason behind every seemingly “abnormal” behavior. According to Freud, the set of behavior is determined at a very early age. From the moment a child sucks on the breasts of his or her mother, the child has entered into a stage of learning. This stage of learning is actively picked up by the brain and produced into behavior in later years. The Pre-Oedipal stage, according to Freud; is one where the human mind seeks to fulfill all biological needs (Freud, 1989).
As the child grows, so does the brain, and therefore, so does the behavior. Freud described various points during this stage. According to him, all motivation to exhibit behavior at this stage is based on biological needs. To the mind, fulfilling these needs is pleasurable; Perhaps even sexually. Based on experiences in early childhood; the brain begins to develop “erotogenic zones” (Freud, 1989). These are behaviors that enhance pleasure or likeness of any particular activity. Oedipus complex: As children grow, they begin to develop tendencies that relate to gender.
The theory, according to Freud states that since the child is closest to the mother; given the close union the two enjoy; there is a deep meaning to it. Freud claimed that for boys; the closeness with their mothers is due to the fact that the young boy wants to complete the union entirely. Thus, in the hope of obtaining his desires, the boy emulates his father, who already has a complete union with his mother. However, for girls, the process is much different. They direct their attention towards the father. According to Freud, girls emulate mothers to “seduce” their father (Freud, 1989).
With time, both genders grow out of these feelings due to external influences such as the fear of “castration” for boys, and the feeling of “penis envy” for girls (Freud, 1989). Ego, ID and Super Ego: This was perhaps the most important part of Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. According to him, the unconscious mind is purposely beyond the consciousness of the mind because they are primal fears, inhibitions and insecurities that a person sincerely wishes to be forgotten. They are instances to painful to remember, feelings to strong to control, and desires that must be repressed (Murphy, 2001).
These are all sent to the unconscious part of the brain. However, these are the very feelings, hidden inside the unconscious; that stimulate adult behavior. According to Freud, the adult personality has three main features (Miller, 2009). 1) The Ego 2) Id 3) Super Ego To understand this theory, it is important to understand “Id” first. The “Id” is the basic instincts that each human being experiences. These are primal desires for maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. The focus of “Id” is to satisfy hunger, needs, and thirst for whatever pleasures the body wants without any “perception of reality” (Miller, 2009).
The “id” part of personality can be categorized as very strong in raw sexual and aggressive levels. To counter act with this part of the personality, Freud described the presence of the “Super Ego” (Freud, 2010). The “Super Ego” contains all our moral codes, values, and ethics. This is like a moral ideal that each personality would like to achieve. What the “Super Ego” does is exactly the same thing “id” does; encourages the “Ego” to move towards a point of action. However, the “Id” favored the pleasure seeking principle whereas the “Super Ego” emphasizes the “moral ideal” (Freud, 2010).
The “Ego” then becomes the most essential element left to understand in this theory of Freud’s. According to him, the “Ego” has a sense of reality. This portion of the personality understands what is real and does so on the basis of the “reality principle”. The “Ego” balances social rules with our primary instincts. It carries out secondary processes for perception, recognition, memory and judgment based activities. The key act of the “ego” is that it is the barrier between the “Super Ego” and the “Id”; balancing their extremes to a level more represent able for society (Freud, 1989).
Marketing Implications on advertising: Often, we see advertisements where father daughter relationships are significantly amplified; or on other channels, where the relationship between the mother and son are amplified. Either way, these advertisements always manage to hit us on a subconscious level because our inhibitions connect and relate to the theory behind them, as described by Freud. The general association that Freud created that girl’s are closer to their fathers, where as son’s are closer to their mothers due to both the “Electra and Oedipus” complexes give a clear insight.
Using these simulations in advertising caters to the subconscious mind that is silently observing everything (Bowlby, 1993). The images are pasted into our memory by advertisers and marketers. Using such images, or the psychology behind it, advertisements become more relatable to consumers as well, influencing their behavior. The more the find commonalities with the given advert, the more likely the consumer will replicate the behavior (MacRury, 2009). There are often times when Advertisements simply seek to invoke raw energy from within us by showing us different images which captivate our senses (MacRury, 2009).
These are targeted towards our “ID” centers. These are centers that are most susceptible to such raw desires such as sex, hunger and lust. Marketers try to exploit that by bringing it in front of us so that our subconscious can retain them for later. These are desires that marketers, through the use of advertising, hope to arouse within us, and eventually us their product to fulfill the “ID’s” pleasure seeking principle (Bowlby, 1993). There are even advertisements that show certain moral ideals that we would like to have. For instance: the care for health and life (MacRury, 2009).
Living a healthy life is something everyone wants. Something that is closely embedded into our “Super Ego” which constraints us with moral codes, values and ethics that ensure that we live an ideal life. Something very closely related to a good healthy life. Advertisements seek to encourage that behavior as well. Anti Smoking Advertisements to an extent rely on invoking your thought process, or invoking the “Super Ego” part of your personality (Bowlby, 1993). To an extent, they even target your “Id” personalities, since survival is a basic characteristic of each personality. Advertisements:
The following part of the paper will seek to analyze a few media sources in the hope of providing a better explanation for how Freudian concepts have affected our advertising of today. The First Advertisement I would like to discuss is that of “Diesel”. We notice how sexual energy is represented with the woman in the jungle, almost naked. In other words, you could portray this scene as very “raw” ands omething that would trigger fantasies within the “id”. Thus, we see that our primal instincts of raw life, without rules and obligations are being triggered through a fantasy picture of an almost nude woman.
However there is another side to this advertisement as well. If we notice the slogan, we can make out that the company is trying to signal at something which is obviously not possible ; woman having testicles. Though, this is my interpretation, I feel it might give residual value in the memory of the female watching this advertisement. If Freud was correct, woman suffer from “Penis envy”; their desire to have a penis. Thus, this particular slogan might even trigger that envy, subconsciously.
The Second advertisement, featuring “Pepsi”, and their slogan “in the raw”, is a classic example of triggering “Id” fantasies. The “Id” part of the personality is known for sexual fantasies, raw instincts of sex, and fantasy fulfillment. However, the raw energy cannot be released since the “Super Ego” is always trying to act as the counter weight where as the “Ego” is balancing the entire situation. Thus, we cannot live in a true “animalistic” way as “id” would have us live. However, our subconscious is constantly fighting to break free, according to Freud.
And this is what stimulates behavior. How long will we fight it? Perhaps this is what Pepsi is trying to tell us ; Do not fight it and give into “Pepsi”! Embrace nature. Be raw! Though an advertisement, it has deep psychological connotations. “Baileys”, “listen to your lips” campaign was a very sensual campaign. As with the Pepsi campaign, it is obvious, they too wanted to trigger the pleasure seeking principles of “id” ; To arouse sexuality. However, there is another story to this advertisement as well. Freud, during his research on psychoanalysis described various stages of growth.
This is somewhere after the pre-oedipal stage and consists of various other subsequent stages such as the phallic stage, anal stage, genitals stage and so forth. However, during the oral stage, if progression and development does not take place properly, children develop fixations. Such as that of biting the nails, chewing on lips and so forth. A similar theory by Freud dealt with fixation. The attraction towards certain parts of the body. This is an example of fixation towards the lips, where advertisers have used it effectively to deliver their message.
They have at the same time left room to tempt the “id” into behaving. The two advertisements shown by NHS urging people to quit smoking were also playing with Freud’s theories. For one, the “ID” has particular emphasis on reducing pain, or minimizing it, in all circumstances. The advertisements both show pain. One is showing the physical pain associated with a hook, whereas the other one shows emotional pain. The bottom advertisement also represents the connections that Freud discussed between the mother and child, especially if it is a boy.
The purpose of this advertisement was to instill fear in people to not smoke. Whether it was successful or not, it did manage to invoke fear. In 2007, this campaign received the most complaints for distressing children in the UK! However, if Freud was right, one can rest assured that the advertisement (showing fear and pain) must have resided in the unconscious. As explained by the paper earlier, the mind makes a constant effort to remove distressing things from the conscious level to the subconscious. And the subconscious, according to Freud, influences behavior the most!
Conclusion: Whether Freud was right or not, it is clear that there is a distinctive way advertisers use Freud’s theories in their advertisements. Trying to gain advantage by aiming at the subconscious is a good way marketers should aim at. Though Freud’s theories have been fairly reconstructed over the past many years, Martin Lindstrom has perhaps done the most effective research on the subconscious mind. According to him, even scents and sounds have an effect on our feelings. For one, softer toned music makes us buy and eat more!
Whereas similar smells can trigger memory effects and influence buying decisions! Objects with a heavier weight are often considered to have more quality (Lindstrom, 2010). Such researchers are making psychoanalytical factors even more pertinent to marketers and advertisers. References: 1) Miller, F (2009). Id, Ego, and Super-Ego: Sigmund Freud, Ego psychology, Unconscious mind, The Ego and the Id, Otto Rank, Psychodynamics, Defence mechanism, Psychoanalysis. : Alpha script Publishing. . 2) Freud, S (2010). The Ego and the Id. : CreateSpace. . 3) Freud, S (1989).
Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. : Liveright. . 4) Freud, S. (2002 revised ed. ). Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. : Basic Books 5) Murphy, J (2001). The Power of the Subconscious Mind. : Bantam 6) Lindstrom, M (2010). Brand Sense: Sensory Secrets Behind the Stuff We Buy. : Free Press. . 7) Berry, R (2000). Freud: A Beginner’s Guide. : Hodder ; Stoughton. . 8) Lindstrom, M (2010). Buyology: Truth and Lies about Why We Buy. : Crown Business. . 9) Milino, A (2008). In Freud’s Tracks: Conversations from the Journal of European Psychoanalysis.
: Jason Aronson. . 10) Idris, I. (2009). Personal and psychological factors-does it impact the choice of advertising medium. Journal of Social Sciences, p104-108. 11) Bowlby, R (1993). Shopping with Freud. : Routledge. . 12) MacRury, I (2009). Advertising. : Routledge. . Image Sources: 1) Pictures of diagrams one and two (Representing Freud’s Ego, Super Ego, Id, Pre consciousness, Consciousness and unconsciousness) taken from: http://www. psyche. com/psyche/cube/cube_metapsychology. html 2) All advertisements taken from: www. advertisingarchives. co. uk/