If psychology is the study of the mind then marketing is the study of the consumer mind and behavior. In other words, it is called consumer psychology. So, what is marketing after all? It is an attempt to motivate/persuade a customer to make a decision – most of the time – it is to buy a product/service. To ensure your marketing effort bears fruit – there are few things you need to do even before developing your marketing strategy. First, study your customers thoroughly. Understand what makes them tick. Next, based on your findings create effective messages that are likely to motivate them to make the choice you want them to make. If this ain’t psychology then what is? If you don’t even make the effort to study and understand your customers – how can you expect your marketing efforts to be successful. And this is where Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory can help you a great deal. This theory can help you understand the needs and motivations of your customers which in turn will help you boost your marketing performance. Because the more you understand your audience, the greater influence your marketing strategies will have.
Let’s look at the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory
A famous psychologist, Abraham Maslow, conceptualized personality in terms of a pyramid-shaped hierarchy of motives, also called the “Hierarchy of Needs.” The hierarchy was first developed to help explain the connection between basic human needs and human desires.
The hierarchy takes the form of a pyramid and is split into 5 main categories. At the base of the pyramid are the lowest-level motivations, including hunger and thirst, and safety and belongingness. Maslow argued that only when you meet the lower-level needs will you be able to move on to achieve the higher-level needs of self-esteem, and eventually self-actualization, which is the motivation to develop our innate potential to the fullest possible extent.
Applying principles from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory to boost your marketing performance
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory has been extensively used by many businesses and marketers to study, understand and explain human behavior. Most importantly, to draw insights on what motivates consumers to behave as they do.
As already discussed, this theory states that human behavior and decisions are motivated by one of these 5 levels in Maslow’s hierarchy. And this gives marketers incredible insight into how to identify the customer’s needs and appeal to them in a meaningful, relevant way.
3 basic questions you need to ask before developing your marketing strategy
1) Which level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is your potential customer in?
2) Is my marketing message addressing their needs and aligning with the level they are on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?
3) Most importantly, how is the product/service you are trying to sell going to help fulfill their needs?
How to boost your marketing performance using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?
1. Physiological need
These needs compromise the basic human needs without which we cannot survive. In other words, the human body needs them. And they include Oxygen, food, water, and sleep.
This and the next level in the pyramid are more product and service-focused. If your audience is on this level, then you need to focus on your product/service brand messaging that helps them enhance or fulfill the need they are looking at. For instance, imagine you are selling a food product. Then your message should convey that your product is the most affordable and also includes all the important proteins and other elements that a human body needs to stay healthy. This is of course, after analyzing your food product in detail.
2. Safety/Security needs
Once a person’s physical needs are satisfied, the next need that humans will pay attention to is safety/security needs. These needs include physical safety, health, financial security, job security, securing one’s home and family, etc.
Here’s an example:
If your product is an insurance scheme and you are targeting the people who are in the 2nd level on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Then your message should focus on safety and security – Like how your insurance policy will offer financial security in the event of a disaster. Also, you need to explain how your product/service will make them feel safe and secure, protect their loved ones and also help them get back on their feet in case everything they owned was destroyed.
However, note, though these needs aren’t as crucial as the initial physiological ones, but are still important for human comfort.
Motivating consumers in times of crisis
Following the economic crisis that began in 2008, the sales of new automobiles dropped sharply everywhere around the world — except the sales of Hyundai vehicles. Hyundai understood that people needed to feel secure and safe and ran an ad campaign that assured car buyers they could return their vehicles if they couldn’t make the payments without damaging their credit.
Seeing Hyundai’s success, other carmakers began offering similar programs. Even banks began offering “worry-free” mortgages to ease the minds of would-be homebuyers.
Likewise, on the onset of the Coronavirus Pandemic, brands started to adopt a new line of “worry-free” messaging. One of the brands to adopt this messaging first was Pizza Hut. Their “contact-free” delivery option for consumers living under conditions of quarantine and physical isolation provided a sense of great relief and their sales skyrocketed as a result.
3. Social needs: Love and belongingness
After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, humans focus their attention on the need to be loved. Being social beings, it’s natural for humans to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance among their social groups. These needs include the need for intimacy, the need to make friends, build a family, grow one’s networks, and so on.
Maslow further elaborates that this sense of belonging motivates people to lean on their peers, friends, and loved ones – and listen to their suggestions.
For instance, if your customers are on this tier of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you could use the help of social influencers to help promote your product/service. Social sharing is the key here.
This is how it works – If your friends are sharing a piece of content on social media, then you are much more likely to share as well.
Here’ another example – the more deals that show as purchased, the more likely they become desirable. On the contrary, if the deal has a lower purchase rate, then people may think twice before purchasing it.
4. Esteem needs
The next level is the need for self-esteem – a need to give and receive respect. Thus, this level includes the need for self-esteem, respect, competence, mastery, achievement, independence, and freedom.
This need exemplifies the desire to be recognized and rewarded for achievements. Because esteem is so closely linked with the previous tier ‘need for belonging – this level illustrates the need to be listened to and accepted by others.
Professional and personal growth also fall under this category. So, as a marketing strategy, you can consider fuelling competition via social sharing campaigns. Or also start a poll and create a platform to ensure people’s opinions are heard. Not just that, you can tap into this need by rewarding your influencers and loyal customers.
After all of the previous needs have been met, people begin to focus on realizing their full potential. And Maslow describes this as the need for ‘self-actualization’. These include morality, creativity, spontaneity, purpose, and inner potential.
In fact, this tier is the driving force behind the need to succeed and perfect his or her chosen interest or profession. You can tap into this need and boost your marketing performance by fueling competition through your social channels. You can go a step further and influence your audience to show off their creative and expert side.
As you have seen there is so much you can take and apply from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. The key is to make appeals to each tier of Maslow’s hierarchy. In other words, determine and develop your marketing strategies around how your products and services can make people:
- Be the person they’d like to be
Most importantly, use the factors which motivate your target audience to inform all of your campaigns. And don’t forget – each person is unique even if they fall on the same level in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. So, ensure to take this factor into account when developing your marketing strategy. This is sure to boost your marketing performance.
Finally, whether it’s consumer psychology or a marketing strategy, it all comes to one thing in the end. And that is – you need to provide the right product that solves your customer’s problems and at the right time. If you can do that, then you have already won!