Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

As one dive’s into the world of advertising, and more specifically digital marketing, it is easy to overlook the underlying foundation for why consumers purchase products and services in the first place.  Simply stated, as consumers, we are trying to satisfy a need with our purchases.  As marketers, we are interested, therefore, in better understanding the genesis of those needs, and how best to position our brands and products in order to help satisfy our customer's needs.  With this notion in mind, we quickly enter the realm of psychology.

A gentleman and American psychologist named Abraham Maslow examined this very problem and produced a rather elegant visual in 1943, known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  The purpose of this classification was to clearly illustrate the manner in which motivation in humans functions and how it is prioritized in our lives. Maslow argued that as humans we have Basic Needs that that must be met, these are positioned at the base of the pyramid.  Once our Basic Needs have been met, individuals focus upward on the pyramid towards Psychological fulfillment - items like Belongingness and Esteem become our focus. If these are addressed, then an individual is free to pursue Self Fulfillment Needs.

So what does all of this mean for you as a marketer?  Quite simply, one must consider what type of need their product satisfies and then market effectively towards that.  Car insurance, for example, satisfies a basic need of safety. To try and position it differently on the hierarchy of needs, would be a misstep.  A set of golf clubs meanwhile, may help a consumer satisfy a social need. Some products interestingly are capable of bridging multiple needs. Returning to the example of golf clubs, the product may act a vehicle for the consumer to get out on the course with friends, but simultaneously participating in the sport of golf may satisfy an esteem need.  

Next time you are looking at an ad, ask yourself, what need is this product trying to satisfy?  The most effective advertisements consider this question and seek to guarantee that their message clearly addresses this.  While Maslow’s work was developed over half a century ago, we are still benefiting from the effects of his groundbreaking insight today.  

- Henry Palmer

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