We all have needs. You have needs, I have needs, your dog has needs. A lot of what makes marketing is matching or creating products to meet customer needs.
In 1943 a guy named Abraham Maslow wrote a paper and outlined a hierarchy of needs. His idea was that certain needs take precedence over others. For example, if physiological needs like food and water are unmet, you might care less about self-esteem.
Maslow put the needs into a nice pyramidal form, with the needs that take precedence toward the bottom:
You can see at the bottom are physiological needs, moving to safety, then to love (social needs), esteem, and self-actualization.
In the United States, most people have their physiological and safety needs met. Sure, sometimes we are hungry, and sometimes we may feel unsafe. In general when we are hungry - we can get food. In western countries like the US, people spend a higher proportion of their income on needs other than physiology or safety.
Yes, I know you need shelter, but you do not need a half-million dollar condo. You need food, but you do not need to eat at fine restaurants. These choices are usually about love and esteem. They give us social power.
Self-actualization needs are about the human drive to experience our own uniqueness. It's the drive for musicians to create music, and painter to paint.
If you own a restaurant - marketing that plays on hunger can be very powerful. The problem is that you only get people to pay attention when they are actually hungry. It's important to realize that people go to restaurants for a lot of reasons including socialization.
Look at the advertising for the Olive Garden chain of restaurants. It's all about family experience - this falls into the love / belonging set of needs on Maslow's scale. The desire to connect with our family is a strong human motivator.
Esteem needs are the primary motivators for luxury items. For good or bad, people pump up their self esteem with brand names, labels, luxury cars, and things that are expensive. If you are marketing a luxury restaurant - expressing physiological needs is not going to work for you. People who are feeling physiological needs aren't paying attention to esteem.
Safety is a strong motivator in marketing and the basis of many large campaigns. Think ADT alarms, Volvo, and a lot of health campaigns.
How do you fit this into small business marketing?
First, start with your target market. Always start with your target market. Then figure out what needs are going to be most motivating for them. A lot of this is going to depend on their social and economic position.
Let's say that your target market are people who read the women's fitness magazine Shape. We know that these tend to be educated women in their 30's who have a higher than average median income. Delving further we might discover that these women's interest in fitness is geared towards body image. We might conclude that these readers are at a life phase that is primarily motivated by love, belonging, and esteem.
OK - our marketing tactics might include direct mail to Shape subscribers and a print ad in the magazine. Our various pieces should promise, directly or indirectly, to fulfill those needs. the ways to do that are basically infinite.
Here's the beginning of a the process to develop a marketing brief:
- Who is my target audience?
- What needs do they have?
- In which ways do my product or service meet those needs, or how can my product or service be made to meet those needs?
- Which needs will we focus on in a particular campaign?
By the way, if you can't answer question #3, then find a new target market.
J D Moore - Marketing Comet