The Strategy of Desire: Masterpiece of Motivational Research!

By J. Duncan Berry

This is the centerpiece of MR, Dichter's method of discovering the motivations behind consumer behavior. A protege of Stekel, and therefore an indirect descendent of Freud, Dichter was another Austrian emigre who polished American consumerism with continental sophistication in the years following WWII.

"The Strategy of Desire" explores the anatomy and etiology of motivation as a whole, with interesting sub-studies on specific commercial issues. With the revival of MR under the guise of deep qual and "neuromarketing" and the meteoric careers of Rapaille and Zaltman, it is astonishing that so much of what Dichter explored as early as the late-1930s has come back into vogue.

That said, there is a good deal here that renders large chunks of his argument locked in the 1950s of Ike's baggily pleated golf trousers and soaring silliness of sweeping tailfins. Speaking of tailfins, don't deny yourself the pleasure of reading Dichter's 1939 Plymouth study; it appears as an appendix. There may be portions of the picture that have been brought into closer focus, but it was he who painted the landscape.

My professional interest in this material -- as principal and founder of Applied Iconology, Inc. -- lies in how one uses knowledge of emotional drivers to effect more pwerful brand, package and advertising design. Dichter was one of the very first to suggest the lineaments of a neuroscientifically-inspired design imagery. Depsite the enormous strides in research technologies and methodologies in the last decade alone, Ernest Dichter still has a good deal to teach us about a commonsensical approach to crafting meaningful, emotionally resonant messages for consumers!

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