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Maslow Hierarchy of Needs for Marketing

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs does not require long introduction. It is in my opinion one of the most important marketing concepts ever invented. In this article I update Maslow’s theory slightly to make it more relevant realities of modern European. Entrepreneurs and investors, before investing their time and money into new ventures, should test their ideas against this and how well their new business would measure up when assessed using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Survival Needs – used to be about covering one’s body to protect it against cold and having access to food to survive. Today, survival needs are more to do with fashion, healthy living and conspicuous consumption. As marketers we should think of human’s survival needs as an opportunity to deliver demanded and differentiated clothing and food products to the market by the means of mass customisation and co-creation.

Security Needs – The most obvious examples of products and services which directly appeal to a human’s security needs are insurance, saving plans, burglar alarms, car breakdown memberships and computer anti-virus software. The less obvious are the things like dating sites. In uncertain economic times in particular, some dating websites site may choose to position themselves as sites which help their users to develop true and long lasting relationships. By doing so they purport to increase the social security of both members of this newly developed relationship.

Belonging Needs – Products and services designed to appeal to the need to belong are probably the most profitable ones. The motives behind their purchase are mainly irrational. People are willing to pay dearly for fashion products in high-value categories, luxury goods and club memberships not only to benefit from receiving the service it provides but to belong to a group of people of similar socioeconomic characteristics. Europe, with its demographic imbalance between senior and junior citizens, presents a great opportunity for marketers capable of addressing the need to belong in the form of offering vintage products to those born just after WWII. By owning a product such as a classic car people can reach back to the time of their youth and meet and chat to other people of the same generation and interests.

Esteem Needs – Are often confused with the need to belong. The two are actually quite opposite. The need for self-esteem is often fulfilled by the ownership of rare and unique products such as an expensive house, jewellery or car and nearly everything which implies one’s social status. The uniqueness, rarity and individualism that are presented throughout the process of fulfilling one’s esteem needs, will unfortunately often prevent an individual from belonging to a certain desired group of people. Rolls Royce is a good example for this. The products addressing esteem needs require smart marketing and are very fragile in the hands of greedy marketers. Overdoing marketing in this product category might remove the brand from the category suitable for the self esteem appeal.

Cognitive Needs – Splitting cognitive needs into aesthetic and information needs is appropriate for its marketing application. Works of art, designer products and jewellery are the best examples of products that address peoples’ aesthetic needs. Travel agencies offer holidays to places considered as beautiful to appeal to the aesthetic needs. The need for information on the other hand motivates us to buy information products such as newspapers, subscribe to a website or pay for a university course. Using the socio-economic classification of people, such as the one currently in use in the UK, can help the marketers to more accurately target consumers with products or services designed to attract people with an elevated high need for information.

Self-actualisation – Is the need to become more and more of what one is and to achieve everything one is capable to achieve. Targeting products which address the self-actualisation needs is difficult and expensive as it requires a thorough and detailed understanding of consumers’ personality and motives. Marketers can use projective research techniques to stablish the self-actualisation needs of an individual. People self-actualise in various different ways so finding a typical example of a product in this category is difficult. Some people climb Mount Everest while others grow their own food to self-actualise.


  • Maciejovsky, B., 2012. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Consumer Behaviour. Imperial College London, unpublished.

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