Saturday, July 11, 2009

Maslow's Hierarchy

Maslow's hierarchy of needs places all human needs in a five layered hierarchy. He proposed that humans will seek to fulfill higher order needs only after their lower order needs are sufficiently met.
The hierarchy of needs, according to Maslow (in order);
Physiological needs - Breathing, Homeostasis, Thirst, Sleep, Hunger, Sex, Protection (clothes and shelter)
Safety needs - Personal security, Financial security, Health and well-being, Safety net against accidents/illness
Social needs – Friendship and Intimacy
Esteem – Need to be respected
Self actualization – Need to realize ones maximum potential and possibilities

This order is taught in basic courses in marketing as it forms one of the important frameworks to understand consumer motives. There are several examples of products being successful in the market after it was repositioned to meet a different class of needs, either higher or lower.

By its Iron Shakti campaign, Kellogg’s is trying to tap safety needs by raising concerns relating to iron deficiency in children.Mercedes Benz has really fin tuned its ability to appeal to the esteem needs of its customers. In India, Mercedes discovered that large family businesses were an important segment for them. So they are selling multiple units to them by trying to sell the S-class to head of the family, the E-class to other important members and the C-class to the junior members of the family.

Marketers have not found it sustainable to try to sell products by overtly positioning to satisfy physiological needs. Most physiological needs like hunger and thirst are very easy to satisfy and thus, such positioning will not give any long term advantage to the marketer. On the other hand, a physiological need like sex has several complex sociological connotations and most marketers would have a nightmare dealing with it.

The main criticisms to Maslow's theory:
  1. It does not sufficiently account for taste or aesthetics. If taste is clubbed with self actualization it weakens the whole model. But how else would you explain the idiosyncratic preference for a red t-shirt over a green one.
  2. The model has been developed after observing exemplary people like Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. Generalization to common people may be unjustified.

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