Modes of Communication

I’ve been spending a bit of time over the past week mulling over different models for clients based on Transactional Analysis. So many aspects of TA are fantastic tools to explain so much in marketing. I used Karpman’s Drama Triangle for some work with a client this week and it had an amazing impact. It can be a quite esoteric model when applied to brands or categories (a bit “on the couch” for some) and should be used sparingly – use it’s power with caution!

It’s only really appropriate for certain categories and used wildly will always lead you on a wild goose chase (with your confused and disappointed clients!) But with in the right context, and on the right brand, with the right strategic question, it can give you a wonderful ah-ha moment.

My old faithful TA tool is to look at communication through Berne’s ego states (Parent, Adult and Child). It really helps demonstrate what is making your comms work or not. Giving me too many facts when I want to play? Telling me to have fun, when I need some structure? Giving me your opinions when I want to be your equal? It’s a pretty simple way to show why sometimes people just switch off.


Walking home a few nights ago (I think it may have been after a swift Guinness or two), Matt and I got talking about a potential “fourth ego state”…The Deranged.

We were wondering what ego state a particular type of ad style is coming from, and how they are correctly received. Those ads that scream and create a heightened sense of urgency to get in and get that rug/sink/designer handbag Because it Must be Sold NOWWWWW, and the offer will Never Be Repeated, and you imagine the voice-over guy has bleeding ears and eyes as he strains harder to get the words out louder and faster, and you can picture people in the warehouse throwing and grappling and fighting for the stock on sale…Matt and some of his friends make mention of this here for a pod-cast on zombie marketing. 

Parent and Child ego states talk quite nicely together. But in the same way that Adult ego states can only speak amongst themselves, we felt that deranged can only talk to deranged.



Filed under marketing

4 responses to “Modes of Communication

  1. ‘Deranged’ ads were discussed on The Gruen Transfer a few weeks ago (described as Shouty Ads). The panel commented that although they _hate_ the format, some clients insist on them because they work. IMO they fall into the same category as the high street shops with a chap pacing outside with a microphone talking about ‘never to be repeated deals’.

    It goes to show there are plenty of people who fall into the deranged state with a disposable income (and are in need a pair of $5 shorts, or a new persian style runner for the hallway).

  2. kelpenhagen

    hmmm, yes, actually this has got me thinking about another TA tool which is all about Life Scripts…that when we are feeling a little stressed we call up a script that in our past has somehow made “things better”…these include…
    -be strong
    -be perfect
    – go faster etc…

    Maybe the screaming guy taps into the “go faster” thing people have going on?

  3. Interesting TA analysis. Would it be possible, instead of adding a fourth state, that “shouting ads” are simply an example of a duplex transaction? Where, on the surface, the communication is adult to adult — “come find something on sale” — but beneath that there is an implicit psychological exchange that is really the behavior of a child trying to stimulate another child — “look, I’m being goofy and irrational, so why don’t you be a little irrational too?”

    In other words, these deranged offers are like a hyper child next door inviting you to come out and play. Maybe “deranged” is a communication stimulus trying to get us to set aside our adult constraints, so we buy. That would explain why these ads are so popular, because they take an approach of trying to stimulate a child-to-child interaction. If I can tap the child in you, consumer, you may respond with childlike lack of restraint and give me your wallet.

    Great to rethink TA though, I’ll have to read up on it more. There’s certainly enough deranged behavior in the world that a fourth state could be called for.

  4. I enjoyed this post. I don’t think of TA in the context of advertising very much, but I certainly like to when the opportunity arises.

    So, would this category account for the some of the crazy local commercials I receive via TV? They have that overall doomsday –scarcity — theme going on. Oh, how people respond to scarcity or the threat of it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s