Thursday, January 28, 2010

Maslow's Hierarchy: The need for Security

Understanding Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (textbook page 143) can help marketers help consumers identify their needs. Maslow asserted that needs follow a progression, that a person cannot identify upper level needs unless their most basic needs are satisfied. He arranged needs into a pyramid, with physiological needs at the base, then a progression to safety, social, esteem, self-actualization.

This ad for cell phone service appeals to our need for security. Dropped calls can interfere with this lower level need.

Maslow's ideas are just a beginning, though. I do not agree with his assertion that a person can only have needs on one level, and that we progress. We can have lower level needs at any phase, and the fact that we have lower level needs does not indicate that our higher level needs no longer matter to us. For example, I have a friend who is a doctor, and he has not yet seen a need to have a cell phone. (He's an ER Physician, never on call.) He is not a status seeker, and he sees cell phones as a status item, so most cell phone advertising does not appeal to him.

The ad above appeals to our need for security, but it assumes that the decision to have a cell phone is automatic. My doctor friend has security needs that could be fulfilled by a cell phone; he just has not recognized that yet. Monday, he called me to tell me that his computer was in for service, so if I needed to reach him, I should not rely on e-mail. He went on to tell me that his computer being down had cost him a small fortune. For fun, he does some day trading, and he lost valuable time in a transaction because he could not get online. I called him the next day and told him that he needs a smartphone, so he can trade stock anywhere, anytime.

I don't know if he will get one, but if he does, it won't be for social needs or esteem needs or self-actualization needs; it will be for security.

Security means different things to different people. Parents purchase cell phones for their kids because we think it will keep them safe. People purchase cell phones so they will have them in emergency situations. And my friend just might get a smart phone so he can monitor the stock market and never miss an opportunity.

Becky Stevens
Section G

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