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Maslow’s need hierarchy explained: the dynamic psychology behind consumer motivation


The last 6 to 8 months have been very difficult for businesses across the globe. Almost everybody has faced the brunt of it. While few industries have been the exception, almost all believed that there is a need for a new channel, a new approach, and a new zeal to their business. The new normal eventually would bring a significant change in the psychographics of the end buyer and they would move more and more towards digital channels. This brings us to our query for the day; why do your business need a digital presence and hence a digital marketing company in Gurgaon to support you in your endeavors.

Physiological Needs: A Basic attempt to stay alive

According to Maslow, we all start at the bottom of the hierarchy, seeking to fulfill our most basic needs, the Physiological: We need food, water, sex, sleep and shelter to stay alive. Physiological needs are categorized as our most basic psychological motivation.

Marketing Implication of Physiological needs

As it pertains to marketing, it’s pretty basic. By appealing to a consumer’s most primary needs, we encourage them to fulfill their basic psychological motivation.

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Most of the FMCG segment marketing communications focussing primarily on hunger or thirst directly appeal to our psychological need to physically satisfy our primary needs. We may refer to multiple cold drinks ads and snacks ads which on multiple occasions mixed with the subliminal activation of perceptions, do also focus on binge buying, impulse buying and “no frills” buying with their very catchy and aggressive advertisement communications, figure and background.

Safety Needs: Security assured for short term and long term Alarms

Safety needs are the second level in the hierarchy, and contain the needs such as personal or financial security, health or well-being, as well as needing safety nets against accidents, illness, or breaches in security. Individuals whose primary motivations are things like job security, insurance, and obtaining wealth are at this level of hierarchy .The need for safety generally have both individual level and family level motivations. Fulfilling these needs makes us feel assured that even if bad things happen to our or our family  well-being or economic health, we’ll still be able to manage life.

Marketing Implications of safety needs

Safety needs have seen evolving marketing connotations over the decade. Marketers have tried multiple communications techniques; Fear factors, Preparedness for future, Being there for you,  more assured for you, safer for you and much more. Absence of safety needs do create significant psychological trauma and do impact parameters of consumer decision making which is heavily situational. As the need is for the security; assurance and credibility of the brand or the concept is very important and plays a very important role.

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The long term implication of security is one of the most desired needs. Multiple examples of Positive connotations around a beautiful and secured future with smart long term investments are there in recent times. Primary focus of assurance through credible brand ambassadors have driven the story to the nook and corner of the country.

Love/Belonging Needs: The need to be accepted and acknowledged

At this level, we develop the next circle of our life, our social circle of intimacy and relationships . We make friends, find life partners and start families. It’s interesting to note that this Needs level can make people compromise on physiological and safety needs depending on pressures and stresses caused by these relationships.

 Marketing Implications of love needs

The need of acceptance and belongingness  in our social circle is a very powerful need. In recent times, that social circle has become very global and social media has become our new love and belonging destination. As a platform built around interpersonal architecture, social media plays an instrumental role in building relationships not only amongst people but between people and brands. A direct appeal to this need makes it easier for faster adoption of the product/concept/offering along with faster transmission of utility ( both functional and emotional) , experience of the offering and feedback of the offering. A focus on brand communities built around cult ideologies not only increase user base but long term loyalty with the brand. Creating a feeling of belonging with our customers satisfies the love and belonging psychological need.

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Our strongest brand advocates are often at times our customers who believe that part of their social identity is tied in with our brand and do promote our brand in their peer groups. Creating a great brand community creates great engagement and interest in everything your company does because it helps to satisfy an individual’s need to belong.


The primary motivation is to gain respect from others and feel confident about ourselves. While at one end, the self-drive is to achieve mastery and competence, the major drive is the acknowledgment of the society for the status and recognition achieved. This is heavily represented in the lifestyle or the professional choice that a person makes in his life.The major target of this need is the self concepts of the person: ideal self concepts or other’s self concepts.

Marketing Implications of Esteem needs

As the primary psychological motivation is of pride and respect, marketers could structure their complete marketing mix to persuade the consumers. Creating Emotional Benefits around achievements, opportunity to outshine, celebrate the fight or struggle, the grooming of success and avenues to master something etc has always worked in favour of marketers to attract a distinctive consumer base towards their brands.

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When we talk about marketing/advertising targeted especially at high status people, we have observed that the brand has positioned itself as a symbol of a person’s status. Multiple brands have created this appeal to different personalities and multiple respect facets.  From a complete persona to a successful persona to a persona with indian values, the offerings are represented as status symbols. The biggest beneficiaries of this strategy has been the beverages , the watches, the mouth fresheners, apparels, the toiletries and the training and learning brands.

Self-Actualization: The one that defines me

It’s very fascinating that this need stage is the last on the maslow’s hierarchy. If possible, they could have been called the “Dream” needs. While the seeds of these needs are sown quite early in life but most of us do intend to park it till other needs are achieved. The need appeals to complete realization of one’s capabilities: the best version you may become with an intent to benefit the complete civilization. The self-drive of this need is amazing and generally not limited by age based qualification or status qualification.

Self-Actualization deals with the realization of an individual’s full potential, a meaning which is subjective and defined by the individual themselves.

Marketing Implications of Self-Actualization needs

For a brand to appeal to this psychological motivation is a bit difficult. The alternatives that have worked in the market, is advertising the role played by the brand to support individuals with their self-actualization needs or the brand itself achieving its self actualization needs and how you may become a part of the same. While some of the product category has massive opportunity for this branding aspect. Others need to cultivate this element through their long term community initiatives, which of course , individuals would be very happy to be a part of, directly or indirectly.

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“Doing Good” for the society: A marketing communication used by so many brands, is a prime example of brand creating appeal through a self-actualization psychological motivation. While FMCG global brands have used it smartly through their company initiatives, apparels and accessories brands have gone ahead with the brand ambassador strategy to achieve similar outcomes. While this marketing activity may involve long term commitments, the companies have ensured that the parent brand is representing itself so that all the sub-brands of the family benefit from these campaigns


While any global or national consumer brands do target users at virtually every hierarchy level with multiple campaigns and marketing activities, they do intend to keep the central positioning quite stable. While different sub-brands and different marketing mix targeting could make it easy for them to successfully target different hierarchies at the same time, not every product category would have the luxuries and the opportunity to adopt the above strategy. While your target market could be very well known to you but their needs and wants are the factors which drive their intention to buy. If we fail to get this need status wrong, then we may not be able to attract our users, even if we are just in front of them.


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs does not help you with the right customer persona and segments of the target audience,  but it does help in assessing the psychological motivation of the target audience and help you filter out the right prospects. The most important utility one gains from this theory is a direction towards the correct communication strategy that could be created for your prospects. As we all know, these communications will help you bridge the gap between customer’s intention to buy and anchored perceptions created for your offering.  These marketing concepts help you build a foundation to evaluate the performance of your communication strategy and keep working towards communications that present product value to what our customers are seeking.

What you need to do is to consistently focus on the hierarchy of needs of the target audience and focus on their current short term and long term psychological motivations. In the current competitive environment, it’s imperative to present your offerings to best satisfy the motivations and the unmet needs. Once you do that, you would be right in front of your customers and they would not only notice you but would communicate with you till the time they accept you and take you home.

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