Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Needs must

As a marketer with a background in psychology, I'm always interested in discussions about human needs and how these can be classified. In the course of my working life, I've lost count of the number of times that the Maslow Hierarchy has popped up on various Powerpoint presentations, like a biblical plague of pyramids. And, apart from Maslow, there are all manner of other systems and classifications, such as those mentioned here and here.

The latest Needs Model that I've seen is the ladder, above, from The Book of Life. I'm happy to pass this on, as I'm aware that even if a particular ladder isn't my cup of tea, it may well float someone else's boat.

My first observation about the ladder is that there's some judgement going on here. In Maslow's model, the pyramid deliberately describes needs as 'lower' order and 'higher' order, as the higher order needs cannot be fulfilled unless the lower order ones are satisfied. But in this model, I feel that someone at the School of Life has made a decision that self-understanding, maturity and wisdom are more worthy needs than status, indulgence and entertainment. After all, that is what the School of Life is selling.

I am wary about the movement described in the article, which suggests that brands in the 21st century should strive to meet the 'flourishing' needs. Two reasons. First of all, I believe that a brand satisfies a basic need, first and foremost, through its product or service - something physical or physiological. There is then a psychological need (want, or desire) that the brand addresses on top of that (the added value of the brand), but this is likely to differ from individual to individual.

And, secondly, I believe that many of the needs in the 'flourishing' rung of the ladder - if they are needs at all - can only be satisfied through other human beings (and maybe nature, and spiritual beings if you believe in such things), not through packets of washing powder or cans of beans.

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