Maslows Marketing Filter

One of the basics of all marketing and advertising training is a teaching of "Maslow's needs pyramid". This pyramid shows the different motivators and needs in a person's life and how they are built one upon the other. Supposedly this is presented to help the marketing student understand consumer motivation and thinking. The problem is I've never seen it applied, in the text books. It's presented as the foundation of human motivation and then it's dropped.

I'd like to present to you a way to use Maslow's needs pyramid so that you can get inside the consumer's mind and develop an understanding of what's truly motivating them as they consider purchasing your product or service.

Maslow's needs pyramid present human needs such that each need is pursued and met before the next level of needs can be considered; they build upon one another. The needs from most basic to most complex are:

? physiological needs: food, shelter, sex
? safety needs: clothing, weapons, defense of self
? social needs: social acceptance
? esteem needs: acceptance of self by self
? fulfillment needs: a feeling of having and fulfilling a purpose

So the question is, "How do we use this paradigm to get inside the consumer's head?"

Let's consider a personal fitness training service. Here's how it works at the most basic level. Place yourself in the position of the consumer and think as if you are considering hiring a personal fitness trainer.

1. How will personal fitness training impact my acquisition and use of food? Of shelter? Of sexual behavior? (Now you see why sex is used in marketing so many products ? we react to it instinctually)

2. How will personal fitness training impact my personal safety? ? you'll be in better shape and can run faster from a mugger, perhaps.

3. How will personal fitness training positively impact my standing in society? In my social circle? Access to different social circles?

4. How will personal fitness training positively impact how I think about myself?

5. Will personal fitness training have an impact on my personal sense of fulfillment?

I understand that most consumers, will ask themselves these types of questions without really thinking about them. The answers you develop as you purposely ask yourselves these types of questions will give you insight in the processes a consumer may consider or be susceptible to as they are considering purchasing personal fitness training services.

This process will also help you define ways to market that will get consumers to consider your personal fitness training service if they are not. Using Maslow's needs pyramid helps you target your marketing. It is the foundation of:

Getting Attention
Developing Interest
Creating Desire
Facilitating Commitment
Motivating to Action

If you can use Maslow's needs pyramid to get inside the head of the consumer by running it through a filter of questions like the one's I've presented above you'll have a tangible marketing advantage because you now can respond to your consumer's internal dialogue.

Using this type of filtering process can also help you create need in those that have not yet developed an interest in your product or service. Simply put yourself in the consumer's place and present you're marketing to them in such a way as to answer or resolve each need in the hierarchy.

Maslow's needs pyramid is a powerful tool that is taught to every marketing and advertising student in the world but it must be understood and applied if it's to actually be useful. Try using Maslow's marketing filter the next time you are considering a marketing campaign. It'll help you get a better grip on what the consumer is thinking and feeling.

Darrin F. Coe holds a masters degree in professional psychology specializing in consumer thinking. He operates Consumer at

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