What is 'Freudian Motivation Theory'

Freudian motivation theory posits that unconscious psychological forces, such as desires and emotions, shape an individual's behavior. It is frequently applied to a number of disciplines, including sales and marketing, in which it can help explain how and why a consumer is motivated to make a purchase. More precisely, Freud's theory has been applied to the relationship between the qualities of a product, such as touch, taste or smell, and how they remind a person of past events. Recognizing how the elements of a product trigger an emotional response from the consumer can help a marketer or salesperson understand how to lead a consumer toward making a purchase.

Breaking Down 'Freudian Motivation Theory'

The Freudian motivation theory explains the sales process in terms of a consumer fulfilling a functional need, such as blinds to cover a window, as well as unconscious needs, such as the fear of being seen naked by those outside. A salesperson trying to get a consumer to purchase furniture, for example, may ask if this is the first home that the consumer has lived in on his own. If the consumer indicates yes, this may prompt the salesperson to mention how the furniture is warm or comfortable, triggering a feeling of safety.

Freudian Motivation Theory Tenets

Freud believed that the human psyche could be divided into the conscious and unconscious mind. The ego, the representation of the conscious mind, is made up of thoughts, memories, perceptions, and feelings that give a person their sense of identity and personality. The Id, which represents the unconscious mind, is the biologically determined instincts that someone possesses since birth. And the superego represents the moderating factor of society's traditional morals and taboos as seen in the fact that not every person acts on impulse. These ideas can help market researchers determine why a consumer has made a particular purchase by focusing on their conscious and unconscious motivations, as well as the weight of societal expectations.

Freudian Motivation Theory Put to Use

When companies want to gauge the probability of success for a new product they will enlist market researchers to delve into the deep motivations of a group of consumers to determine what triggers them. They may utilize a number of techniques to discover such deeper meanings, such as role playing, picture interpretation, sentence completion or word association, among others. Such exercises can help researchers learn about how consumers react to products and how to best market them as a result. For example, buying a particular brand of computer can make a person feel smart, successful, productive and/or prestigious. Marketers can use this information to cultivate a brand identity.

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