I came across an extremely interesting BBC documentary called “The century of self happiness” that documents the effect of Sigmund Freud’s theories and their successful translation to the field of Marketing by Edward Bernays. A must watch for every marketer next to reading “Ogilvy on Advertising”. Bernays, supposedly, took inspiration from the kind of behaviour as observed during the second world war as well as the field of psychology. What’s even more curious is that he was Sigmund Freud’s nephew!

Edward Bernays, widely referred to as the “Father of PR”, interestingly, according to the BBC documentary, was the first one to link instinctual drives to the purchase decision of mass-produced goods. He concluded that society could be manipulated on two fronts: tap into an individual’s untapped desire and second, as a group, individuals tend to be a lot more irrational in their decisions. He figured that there is a lot more going on in decision-making than just the information and rational parameters that used to be the norm at the time to promote products. Cut to what we understand of marketing today, and we have segmentation and targeting. To quote Bernays as detailed in Wikipedia “If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it”.

In present day, perhaps this statement captures what Steve Jobs will perhaps be missed for the most – the ability to influence, the ability to manipulate the consumer’s mind and apparently, hordes of them, into desiring possession of the latest Apple gadget. And the group dynamics are important in this case, especially considering that Apple currently occupies position 1, and 2 according to the latest NPD study(source: news.cnet.com) of the US smartphone market in spite and despite other models’ competitive pricing, features and extremely capable platforms – where’s the rationality in all this decision-making? Surely, it cannot be that the dynamics are entirely restricted to individual decision-making. It’s what your friends say, it’s what people say on the web and even then, on what must surely be noted as dreary reviews, the iPhone4S is overbooked.  Talk about tapping into the subconscious and “regimenting” the masses according to their will!

This applies just as much to all B2C businesses including banks. Charles Merill, for instance, wanted to bring “Wall street to main street” but banking industry in particular is usually in the news in case of disasters rather than successes due to the nature of the industry. More often than not, one hears references of banks being on the receiving end of the herd mentality like the Nyberg banking report of March 2011. Perhaps the need, today, more than ever, is for bankers to channel their energies into socializing some of the positive ways in which they tap into their customer’s minds. Are there examples of bankers who have been successful at influencing group behaviour to ensure that their brand resonates above competition? Are there banks out there that think like Steve or Edward?


– By  CustomerXPs

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