Tool: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs


Ever heard the expression "First world problems"? Usually applied to a frustration around an aspect of comfort or luxury. We use this to describe problems which are not really a problem but which, for some reason, people get very hung up on. The expression implies a contrast with more serious problems such as those that may be experienced in the developing world. Problems to do with survival or safety.

In this amateur way (and many others) we grade our problems and needs.

What is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?

In 1943 a scientific journal called the 'Psychological Review' published a paper entitled “A Theory of Human Motivation.” The article was by an American psychologist called Abraham Maslow (1908 – 1970).

In his paper, Maslow put forward the idea that people are motivated to achieve specific needs first before they move on to focus on others. He graded and defined five levels of human need. For example, if our basic need for physical survival is not met (level one) this will be our focus and this will be the thing that motivates our behaviour. Once this need has been met we will move to the next level up and that is what motivates us, etc etc.


The five levels of human needs

LEVEL 1: Physiological

These are the basic needs required for survival. Things like: air, food, sleep, clothing, shelter and sex.

LEVEL 2: Safety

This need is all about security. We desire to feel safe and so in this level we seek things like: law and order, personal and financial security, freedom from fear.

LEVEL 3: Belongingness

Feeling like we fit into a social group is the next level of need for humans. We look for fulfilment in families, friendships and social communities.

LEVEL 4: Esteem

This need is centred around being recognised within the group or by obtaining self confidence from developing self awareness. This would cover things like: reputation, recognition, status, importance, self-esteem and integrity.

LEVEL 5: Self-actualisation

This need refers to what a person's full potential is and the realisation of that potential. Its an individual need specific to a persons ambitions, talents and personal value sets and enjoyments.

Why is it helpful?

These five levels of need and motivation are universal and so become a powerful tool when generally considering human behaviour. When considering your brand's audience it is useful to review the five levels of need to consider which level your brand is serving.

Are your audience being motivated by the need for safety? Then speak to them of security and the freedom from fear. Are your audience seeing self actualisation? Then speak to them about the specific beliefs your brand stands for which will help them.

You can also look to tell stories of how your product or service can not only fulfil a need but help the customer move onwards and upwards through the needs to self actualisation.

The other very helpful aspect of this model is that it is used in the powerful Archetypal branding model by Margret Mark and Carol S Pearson which we will review in future posts.

Watch this space!


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