Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in Digital Marketing

Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, created the ‘Theory of Motivation’ or the ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ theory. It establishes the idea of man being motivated by five groups of needs in and through his life.

It is a simple principle: As one progresses in their lifetime, their needs and requirements evolve with them.


(Source - Very Well Mind)

The Theory of Motivation specifies needs as follows:

  1. Physiological: Air, water, food, clothing, shelter

  2. Safety and Security: Security, employment, resources

  3. Love and Belongings: Friendship, intimacy, family, belongings

  4. Self-esteem: Respect, self-respect, status, recognition

  5. Self-actualisation: Desire to reach one's maximum potential

These needs fall into the category of either ‘Basic Needs’ (Physiological, Safety & Belongingness) or ‘Growth Needs’ (Self-esteem & Self-actualization).


The Theory applied to Digital Marketing


According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a person moves from one level to another by traveling up the pyramid. However, when one moves upwards, their previous needs are not eliminated. Anyone seeking love, for example, would not disregard their need for food and shelter.

More often than not, we observe brands selling needs instead of products and services. If you examine closely, most of these brands can be classified based on the need they satiate.


Physiological Needs

These are the necessities of survival that one has to acquire. It includes needs related to food, clothing and shelter, which are satiated through daily activities and are vital for a person's well-being.

Brands like Big Basket focus on selling the need for fresh food that's nutritious. Their marketing communication doesn't revolve around eating the right food; instead, it talks about sourcing the right ingredients.


(Source - Newspaper Ads)


Safety and Security Needs

One cannot survive without necessities; however, once one satisfies their physiological needs, one moves to safety needs, where they desire to feel secure and protected against the extremities of life. Now, brands or companies working around safety needs will often have a fear appeal in their advertisements. They will often showcase the adversities faced in the lack of safety or security.

Hence, brands like LIC often show what would happen without insurance to instigate the need for safety amongst potential buyers.


(Source - LIC India)


Love and Belonging Needs

Anyone with food, clothing, shelter and a sense of security would now desire a sense of belongingness, and the feelings of love and acceptance. They would want to invest in relationships emotionally.

Such ads are easy to find. Often these ads focus on the desire to be connected with people and have a confidant in life. Marketing communication by brands like Bumble and Shaadi.com revolve around one's need to find a partner and a sense of belongingness.


(Source - Ad Gully)


Self-esteem Needs

Self-esteem revolves around validation by oneself, as well as others, through a sense of accomplishment. This would involve feeling respected, recognized and in possession of a societal status. Brands that promote self-esteem are often premium brands with a niche audience. To maintain a sense of prestige, exclusivity and status, these brands do not wish to come across as an everybody-brand. They are symbolized by brands like BMW and Mercedes that want to stand out and offer a sense of accomplishment to their buyers.


(Source - Pinimg)


Self-actualisation Needs

When an individual feels satisfied in all areas of life (or on all levels of the hierarchy), there arises a need to go beyond their existing capabilities and sense of self. Brands catering to this need are unique. They urge the audience to take steps that will set them apart from the rest of the society and help them connect with the greater good. Falling within this category, brands like UNICEF and PETA will communicate about contributing towards bringing change and creating a better world.


(Source - Vegan News)


As a brand, you must consider the type of needs you wish to fulfill and accordingly create a marketing campaign for your audience. You can study the target audience, identify where they most likely stand on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and then set up a communication pattern to persuade them. You would find that this theory plays an integral role in the various techniques that can be used to persuade potential clients.


If you want experts to design excellent campaigns for you with the correct psychoanalytical approach, click here to connect with our team.