Balancing the Id and the Superego in a Time of Coronavirus


You’ve probably felt it lately. As society retreats into their homes in the hopes of warding off a potentially serious case of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus that has swept the world, we may find ourselves struggling with the temptation to throw caution to the wind and venture out, even when we know that doing so could have deadly consequences.

Such is the battle between the Id and the Superego, the two opposing forces battling for supremacy in our Freudian minds. The Id seeks pleasure, plain and simple. It has no time for trepidation and warning, it wants to go out in public and have a good time, consequences be damned; it’s the devil sitting on our shoulder. 

The Superego on the other hand concerns itself with moral and ethical considerations. If we go out, we might not just be affecting ourselves, but those we love around us. Going out is not the responsible thing to do when all the relevant authorities are urging us to stay indoors, but at the same time, we’re only human and cabin fever is a very real thing.

How we balance these impulses informs who we are as people. Are we risk-takers, or do we like to play it safe? Our we more beholden to the Id or the Superego? This battle rages on in the best of times but takes center stage during crises such as the one which the world finds itself in.

Marketers and brand managers must also keep this in mind during these troubled times. Brands must also balance the need to be conscientious and the instinct to operate business as usual to drive sales. Brands need to be playing the long game at the moment and careful of their messaging and labor practices. Mark Cuban recently reflected on this.

“How companies respond to that very question is going to define their brand for decades. If you rushed in and somebody got sick, you were that company,” Cuban said on CNBC. “If you didn’t take care of your employees or stakeholders and put them first, you were that company.”

Brands can have many of the same personality traits as human beings, and marketers are often told to think of their brands as people. In today’s reality, the Id needs to take a backseat to the Superego, where possible. Not just for the good of humanity, but for the good of the company.