Thursday, July 8, 2010

MEDIAPOST: The Ego-Driven Internet

Is it just me or are the majority of innovations in this current phase of the web all about ego?

Checking in, tweeting, posting your status, and sharing your activities with friends are a collection of very ego-driven experiences. In some cases you may be sharing information that others will find relevant, but sharing what you’re thinking at that very moment or what bar you just popped into is rarely of value. I can’t throw stones since I do just as much of this as the next guy, but what’s really the value here and how can marketers take advantage of it?

It comes back to the ego. Tapping into the ego is one of the two most important things that marketers do. All marketing either satisfies a core human need or makes that human feel special by association. Once you get past the human needs, ego is pretty much all you have left.

The ego is what drives most impulse buying while pure human need is what drives most considered purchasing. I hit on these topics a few weeks back and in doing so I had an epiphany of my own. Human nature is social and when we see others doing something interesting we want to join in. The same goes for shopping or activities. When we see others become interested in a product or service, it intrigues us and makes us want to know what we can do in a similar fashion. That’s why word of mouth advertising is so effective; it speaks to our base human needs to fit in and align with our peers. It’s also why peer pressure is so strong, especially at early ages when you are still trying to find your way. Peer pressure is the biggest example of the ego at work and the ego needing to find other egos with similar priorities.

Marketers have known this for many years, and that’s why the Internet is so powerful. The Internet allows the consumer to quickly, and with very little effort, have insight into the egos of like-minded people. That’s why re-targeting works so well and social re-targeting (which I hear about a lot because my wife works in that area with Media 6 Degrees) is even more effective. The concept that “birds of a feather flock together” speaks directly to the fact that like-minded egos will likely engage in similar activities, and they want to know about what each other are up to! Whether you tell the consumer “their friends are doing it” or not, that kind of targeting taps into that innate understanding and drives a stronger ROI.

What marketers also need to do is find ways to tap into the ego of their consumers and share their experiences. Sites like Blippy are simple and brilliant, though many of us don’t know why, because they project the ego of shopping from one consumer to another. People want to know what their friends are buying and why. If their friends are buying something, maybe they should be considering it too! It’s a purely ego-driven experience, because everyone wants to be first, but it works!

If your friends are buying something, you tend to want to know. It’s also referred to as “keeping up with the joneses”. If they buy a nice car, you may want a nice car. If they put an addition on their house, you might consider it. If their Christmas lights are out of control but cool, yours will likely go big the next year. It’s simple human nature.

How are your marketing efforts tapping into the ego? How are you pressuring the audience into looking you up and learning about your brand?