One of the best known theories of motivation in psychology is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The hierarchy of needs is organized in a way where the most basic of needs are placed at the bottom and the more complex ones at the peak.
The Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid
What I find most interesting about this theory of motivation is that its evidence is clearly reflected in our current lives as humans and as a society.
If you look at the bottom 3 most basic needs, we have physiological needs which are rooted in survival, safety needs which are rooted in security, and love/belonging needs which are rooted in social connection.
In business market terminology, these needs are:
- The ‘Health/Well-Being’ Market (physiological)
- The ‘Career/Wealth/Business’ Market (safety, security)
- The ‘Dating/Relationships’ Market (love/belonging/connection)
It’s no surprise that these 3 categories are responsible for over 80% of sales that take place online. When people are lacking in ANY one of these three basic needs, the mind is unable to really focus on anything else. The pain, urgency, and irrational passion to find a solution to the lacking need is the driving force behind many consumer decisions. It takes priority over anything else.
The order makes a lot of sense – Health & Wellness is the first most essential need because without food, an able body, a working mind, we are incapable of doing anything else or even considering any other need. That needs to be taken care of first. Career & Wealth is second because once we have our health, we need to maintain and ensure our continuous survival through having the security of a home, consistent food and water, etc. In today’s world, security means a source of income which enables us to maintain continuous growth in our life. Third is Relationship because once we have those basic needs covered, we automatically look to connecting with others, looking past ourselves, realizing the joy and growth that being part of a society, having friends, and family can bring to us.
I believe that we’re progressing on this hierarchy not as individuals, but as a species. We’re constantly evolving in every way. There was a time when our focus was on only our survival – we were hunters and focused on trying to figure out where our next meal would come from. Once we had a firm grasp on that, we moved up with a focus on maintaining our security through our best known method – through an income – and this gave birth to time periods like the industrial revolution. As we continued to evolve, I believe we’re now focused on relationships and social connection – hence the uproar of all the social networks that dominate the internet and people’s time and attention. Whereas once upon a time, the human species time and attention was mainly focused on making money and creating an income which ensures safety – this is why the older generation’s viewpoints conflict with the younger generation. This is why parent’s still want their children to become doctors, lawyers, accountants, whereas children want to pursue whatever they are passionate about. The focus has shifted from Safety to Belonging & Connection. (Again, I’m talking about the human species as a whole and referring mainly to the developed countries.) I would argue that this shift in focus initially started with the rise of the internet, which enabled ‘connection’ on a massive, global level. That connection has been improving in speed, ease, and convenience DRASTICALLY ever since. Today, we have access to global social connection 24/7… in our pockets.
What does this mean for marketers and business owners?
Well firstly, GET ON SOCIAL MEDIA if you haven’t already. But secondly, think about this:
If you can understand what the world currently values and better yet, what the world will value in the next 10 – 20 years, and if you can manufacture your marketing and brand strategy accordingly, what could that mean for the long-term success of your business?
For marketers and brand builders, it’s important to know about the basic needs that fuel our motivations, because we can leverage our consumer’s desire to fulfill these basic needs when creating our marketing strategy.
The 3rd Basic and Currently Most Important Need for Businesses to Leverage – Relationships/Connection
Establishing a relationship between your brand and your consumer is the first step to increasing brand equity and creating brand loyalty. The urge to be a part of something, to feel a sense of belonging and connection, is very deep-rooted in human nature. More importantly, the factors that create a sense of belonging and connection that lead to establishing relationships, are also deeply rooted in human nature. Therefore, if we’re going to be strategic, these are the factors we must leverage to enable our consumer’s to feel a sense of belonging and connection with our brand.
One Crucial Factor To Use In Your Strategy
Robert Cialdini identified an important concept that relates to relationship-building when he created his 6 key principles of influence:
The Concept of RECIPROCITY.
Professor Regan at Cornell University displayed the power of this concept when he conducted an experiment where different subjects were rating paintings with a ‘perceived’ partner (the research assistant). Throughout the experiment, the assistant would give some subjects a drink and wouldn’t give anything to other subjects. At the end of the interaction, the assistant would ask if the subjects were willing to buy raffle tickets from him, and of course, those subjects who received the gift of a drink were more willing to purchase tickets – even though the tickets were a lot more expensive than the drink itself!
Humans are naturally inclined to give back when they have been given FIRST. Rarely does anyone take the first step – but the one who does, creates a momentum. The act of giving and serving others inspires that behavior naturally. Which is why when people see others doing something good, they automatically feel the need to good as well. Giving creates a positive emotional momentum.
Leverage the Concept of Reciprocity
Leveraging this natural human tendency in your marketing strategy accomplishes two things for your business:
1. If you provide your customer with some form of value, they will be a lot more likely to provide you with their business – even if the value of their business is more than the value you provided to them! But also be strategic and keep in mind the ‘value’ of your ‘value’ that you provide. What does that mean? Let’s say you offer a free promotion of some kind and your company is the first to do so. You will do very well. That is until your competitors start doing the same thing. When everyone is doing it, the value of the ‘value’ you are providing, no longer fuels the principle of reciprocity.
2. Creates a strong relationship between your brand and consumer. Relationships are strengthened through the act of service and the act of giving. (Enter free prizes and giveaways – Tim Horton’s Roll up the Rim contest, WestJet giving free stuff to passengers on Christmas, etc.)
Keep in Mind & Key Takeaway
Keep in mind that as humans, we are not only compelled to return the favor when we receive value, but we’re also inclined to not have to feel obligated and in-debt towards others. Therefore, as a business you should make it a point to always be the last to give something of value to your customer, so it’s on them to always take action in your favor. If your customer has already bought your product or service, give more value by sending an appreciation email, or by sending a follow-up bonus, or by having exceptional after-sales customer service. At the very least, a thank you in some shape or form is a no-brainer, because even ‘thank-you’ is reciprocated in the form of a ‘you’re welcome’. Even if the customer can no longer buy anything you, they WILL give back value through recommendations, referrals, likes on your Facebook page, etc., which is how your brand and your business grows. Understand your consumer, their psychology, their motivation and provide them with value to evoke their willingness to take action towards your brand – that is what brand marketing psychology is all about.