Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who left behind a legacy that can be applied by today’s marketers. Maslow’s theory suggests that there are five levels of needs: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and last, self-actualization. He suggested that we must fulfill each need before reaching the next.
As a marketer and technology enthusiast, I’m tasked to review the underlying reasons (i.e., psychology) behind persuasive advertising that reaches my clients’ target audience and help them break through the clutter.
The ability to make consumers take action is a main competitive edge any marketer should offer, and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a good place to start.
“Maslow wanted to understand what motivates people. He believed that people possess a set of motivation systems unrelated to rewards or unconscious desires. Maslow (1943) stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs. When one need is fulfilled a person seeks to fulfill the next one, and so on.”
Listed below are successful brands that fall under each of the needs displayed in Maslow’s pyramid. They are also great examples of how brands can generate persuasive creative content by identifying whether it successfully shows how the company fulfills each need within the hierarchy.
Physiological needs are the basis of all human needs, and we need these to be met in order to survive. Companies such as Nestle Pure Life Purified Water, Fiji Water, Aquafina and Dasani have website content that emphasizes the pure, refreshing taste of their water. The ultimate desire to quench one’s thirst is conveyed throughout their content.
Additionally, the message of popular fast food chains such as McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell and Wendy’s successfully appeals to our innate need for food. The copy of these websites emphasizes the fun, happy, refreshing, delicious and juicy experiences associated with their food. The positive experience associated with hunger satisfaction is strongly conveyed.
Once our physiological needs have been satisfied, our next need is for safety. It’s only natural to long for security, order and stability, especially in today’s world with its fluctuating job market, lack of quality health care and affordable insurance, high crime rates and extreme weather conditions. Therefore, we have strong desires for the exact opposite.
The messages from major insurance companies such as Progressive, Geico, State Farm, All State, Nationwide and Liberty Mutual effectively appeal to our innate need for safety and security.
Their content places a strong emphasis on savings, value, quality protection, trust, service, support, simplicity, satisfaction guarantees and peace of mind. Together, these keywords fulfill our need for safety and security and persuade consumers to purchase.
Love and Belonging
Up until now, we’ve only discussed the needs that are important for the physical survival of individuals. Once we’ve satisfied those, we move on to our need for love, affection and belonging.
The value propositions of popular social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest subconsciously appeal to our innate need as human beings to belong. The functionality entices you to sign up for an account through the use of keywords like “connect,” “share,” “conversations,” “people,” “friends,” “groups,” “love,” “find,” “collaborate,” “together” and “hangout.” These keywords implicitly drive our desire to belong and persuade us to use their services.
Likewise, the offers of popular dating sites such as Zoosk, Match.com, eHarmony and PerfectMatch.com appeal to our innate need to love and to be loved. The copy of these websites utilizes keywords such as “romantic,” “connect,” “relationships,” “marriage,” “compatibility,” etc. These keywords tap into our desire for love.
This stage reflects the ego needs of individuals. Many of us struggle with our self-esteem and have very little confidence. As humans, we desire to be acknowledged, recognized and respected for our achievements. Marketing firms take advantage of this need and feed our egos.
The content of luxury car companies Bugatti, Aston Martin, Lamborghini and Maybach feed into our esteem needs. Emotionally charged keywords (“exclusivity,” “luxury,” “elegance,” etc.) work together to tug at the desires of people worldwide. Luxury car companies are great examples of the power of conversion through words.
The highest level obtainable in Maslow’s pyramid of needs is self-actualization. It’s a need that only a select few of us are fortunate enough to obtain. The premise of self-actualization is coming full circle in your lifetime.
As a result of having every other need satisfied, you move on to pursue self-awareness, other forms of personal growth and fulfilling your potential. Self-actualized individuals are concerned about giving back to the community, and morality as a whole.
The calls to action of the largest charities in the U.S., such as United Way, the Salvation Army, Feed the Children and American Cancer Society, effectively persuade self-actualized individuals to take action. The use of keywords (“change,” “united,” “community,” etc.) subconsciously inspire self-actualized individuals to donate or volunteer to their charity.
Similarly, the messages from recruitment websites for the U.S Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard persuade individuals to give back to their communities. The use of keywords (“learn,” “challenge,” “inspire,” etc.) motivate these individuals to take part in the aforementioned services.
In today’s fast-paced content world, a consumer is constantly bombarded with advertisements, messages, offers and calls to action. As marketers and technology experts, we have found that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the foundation for creating content that persuades and motivates consumers to purchase various goods and services to fulfill different needs. Being able to touch on these in your content is the first step to getting consumers interested in your product.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Duran Inci is an Internet Technology Consultant with over eleven years experience in e-business, including Digital Marketing, Ecommerce Systems and Integrations. As Co-Founder and COO of Optimum7, Duran has developed sophisticated processes resulting in leading-edge execution of marketing and management strategies. Combined with his strong leadership of the Optimum7 team, Duran has successfully generated many millions of dollars in revenue for his clients.
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