The Psychological Phenomenon Brands Use To Manipulate Us: Transactional Analysis

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Have you ever paid attention how the commercials talk to us? For example a bank, and how they call out to us, or how the features of a car are told to us? The whole idea of ads is that they call out to us, and we reply.

Brands sometimes give us advice, just like a dad would do with his children; they sometimes share their feelings with us, to which we sometimes listen and the communication is retained. And sometimes we just get frustrated and cease contact with a certain brand. That's the exact point where 'transactional analysis' comes into play. 👊

"Transactional analysis” is both a theory of psychology and communication.

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Psychology, because it investigates the ego state of the patient...

Communication, because it studies the transactions, which are the most primary units of communication (in other words: communication is a sum of transactions).

This analysis is useful when it comes to interpersonal communication, marriages, and even the problems couples have.

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It is categorized as a psychoanalytic approach because it focuses on what makes each individual special and different from others, and the comparison of these differences. Thus, individual differences are the key to this approach.

Let us shortly summarize. According to the transactional analysis approach, we use one of the three states of ego when we talk to someone.

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This concept was first suggested by a psychologist named Eric Berne in 1950s:

  • Parent ego state

  • Adult ego state

  • Child ego state

We go into "parent ego state" when we give advice to someone, when we try to protect or criticize someone: simply when we act like a parent.

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We can call this the state that we apply what we have learned from our parents. If we tell a friend of ours to dress warmly during winter, our parent ego state is dominant at that moment.

We put our adult ego state in use when we are discussing a matter with someone, avoiding being emotional and solving problems in a reasonable and logical way.

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This is the state that plans and organizes, thinks about how much we earn, and how much we spend. For example, if you want to buy a car, but after some calculations, you realize that you cannot afford to go into that much debt and simply put off the plans until you can save enough. That's purely adult ego state.

The child ego state, on the other hand reflects the most childlike part of our personality.

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We all know how children want to eat as soon as they feel hungry, how they can't wait or show any kind of patience. When we want something and we want it right now, right here; our child ego state is in control.

Another example is when we find ourselves in a situation where we just obey someone like a guilty child accepting their terms and advice.

Lastly, when we rebel against authority and act like a free and wild child, it is again our child ego state taking over.

Here is where transactional analysis becomes important.

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According to your ego state and which one is dominant at a point where we interact with someone, we expect the suitable transaction to take place. It is that transaction that determines if the interaction will continue or not.

For example, if you receive a reasonable and logical answer to the question you asked with your adult ego state, the interaction continues.

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Because you then establish parallel transaction.

However, if you speak the language of logic and the other party perceives it ironically and also responds ironically, we get a crossed transaction and the interaction ceases.

And brands make use of this theory while interacting with us.

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Brands act like an adult when it comes to technological products. When the ad talks about the features of a product, as well as public service ads, we see something similar to a parent and child talk. We are given advice and told about the consequences of our actions.

And we also often see ads with the themes of a rebellious child's freedom and independence.

While brands sometimes use father figures, they also try to get to us by including cartoon characters.

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If we give a parallel response to these transactions, the interaction intended by the brand succeeds; however, if we react in an opposed way (crossed transaction) our interaction with that brand breaks off.

What should brand managers do with the implications of this theory?

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If the aim is to successfully interact with customers, brands have to address them using the correct ego state of their customers.

If banks, technological, and chocolate & candy brands employ different ego states, their campaign is successful.

We already know that brands which achieve an emotional connection with their customers gain more loyal customers in the long run.

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If you take a good look at it, you will see that many brands communicate on an adult level with us while talking about their new products and tariffs, although those who seek loyalty to their brand mostly make use of more child like spirited content.

In short, in every interaction strategy, the most important point is whether we appeal to the right kind of ego state, or not.

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If brands want to create complementing transactions, they have to investigate and know their customers' ego states well.

In simpler words: it is all about which sector you work for, how your target market looks, what you talk about, and how you address consumers.

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