I know for most this feels like Marketing 101, but the idea here is not to explain the model, but challange it.

Maslow’s – Hierarchy of Needs 

A well known theory on human motivation, the model was first presented in the early 1940s by Abraham Maslow and suggests that humans are motivated to complete basic needs before moving on to psychological needs and then self fulfilment needs.

One interesting observation is how the first four are driven by a deficiency, deprivation or incompletion and the last by growth.

Until the first four (food, safety, connection and accomplishment) are not adequately met, a person cannot think about growth needs (self actualisation and true potential), unlike the other four it does not stem from a lack of something, but a need for more.

But here’s a thing, what if this is not completely accurate, what if we have got it wrong and misunderstood what Maslow intended.

If we think about it, we realise four aspects that make little sense.

1. Needs are not hierarchical or linear- people are not driven or motivated by the same things, leave alone in the same order of needs.

Eg. During this Pandemic, there are numerous people who have kept aside their safety needs and are helping others within the community (social needs) at much personal peril. 

To be honest if we truly observe people, we realise that they could be working towards satisfying various needs, across levels at any given time.

2. The model does not account for culture variation and its impact on needs. 

Imagine someone in a rich, westernised world vs. someone in war torn Africa and how their emphasis on individual needs may change.

3. The hierarchy itself suggests that once we are done with a need, we move up to a higher order need (akin to levelling up in a game). 

PS- Not only is this untrue, some data even suggested that Maslow never created a pyramid, This was essentially the handy work of management consultants in the 1960s who wanted to use this in analysis.

4. Self actualization – the way it is represented and understood (In an individual context) is misleading. 

The top of the hierarchy is not really about the individual, but rather the individual and his or her role and relationship with the environment and society at large.

It’s not about individual growth, but rather accepting one’s place and living in harmony with nature and society.

 So imagine, if instead of a pyramid we think of this as a circle.

Where one goes through this ebb and flow, from one need to another and through the cycle repeatedly.

You get your first job, have money, shelter and friends, get married and also that promotion (Physiological, safety, social and esteem needs done), until you are back to wanting a bigger house and better food and more clothes (physiological and safety needs again) and then to better suited friends as you move up the corporate ladder. (See a cycle is how it really plays out).

As marketers, if there is one thing we learn is that there is no one truth or model to follow, they are at best tools to understand the world around us and connect dots.

So for a second, try and imagine Maslows as a circle and see how that impacts your thinking about your consumer and brand.

Better still what if we were to reframe it as – Body (food, safety), Heart (love and connection) and Mind (growth and potential), what impact will that have on our marketing and communication. 

Does what a consumer really seek change according to his or her life stage and age. 

Eg. As one grows, our focus or emphasis shifts from body (I want to look good) to heart (I want to find someone) to mind (I need the world to know about me). But when we get married and start a family, our definition of self changes and expands and so does the emphasis on Body, Heart and Mind again.

So once someone has a kid, the emphasis and need for safety peaks once again and so on and so forth.

No Comments

Post a Comment