Consumer Psychology Lessons From Carnival – Forbes

Leave it to the Germans for providing the perfect word to explain the joy of Carnival: maskenfreiheit.

Maskenfreiheit is the freedom felt from wearing a mask. 

Carnival masks can be traced back to 13th century Venice. From December 26th through Lent, Venetians wore masks for anonymity. People could mingle at parties without a reference to their social class or identity.

The idea of a mask is intriguing. Masks can hide a darker side of people because it can erase one’s responsibility for their actions. Stormtroopers come to mind. A mask can also bring out a more amplified, authentic, and less restrained version of one’s personality. Think of Batman, the capitalist Bruce Wayne turning into the empathetic life-saver Batman upon exiting the bat cave.

Carnival is one of the rare chances one can openly swim in maskenfreiheit. From the parent to the marketer to the student, people can leave everyday identities at home. Carnival excuses us to wear an entirely new mask, a completely new identity that we don’t own in our daily lives. 

To better understand masks’ (and by extension, costumes’) unique effect and its connection to consumer behavior, we must first understand the psychology of identities.