Maslow’s hierachy of needs, is a fundamental principle of human behaviour. But what You probably haven’t thought of, is that it also determines how consumers react or how businesses are built up.
(I wrote these words sometime in 2008)
Psychologist Abraham Maslow devised the human hierarchy of needs: that we need sleep more than friends, and that we can only concentrate on playing music after we’ve had a bite to eat. The fundamental factor is thus the cumulative amount of resources. On this page is a graphic of three pyramids: first Maslow’s original hierarchy of needs, then my interpretation of it for use with businesses, and lastly one for use in relation to products and customers and the relationship between them. As the hierarchy of needs is true for an individual person, it’s also true for a business: without tools and employees there’s no reason to have a PR-strategy: but the more needs of the hierarchy that are fulfilled, the more successful the business can become. The hierarchy of needs also pertains to customers: they need to receive and be able to use the product, but if there’s no possibility of having it repaired, there’s less reason to buy it. The more individual needs a product fulfills, and the better it fulfills them, the more reason to buy it. According to Maslow’s for businesses there’s an increasing element of involvement between the customer and the product she buys: the more it allows her, the more value it has to her. A product should ultimately and preferably fulfill up to and including the top field in the blue pyramid.
Maslow’s for businesses, as it’s pictured on this page, is fundamentally true, but an important exception is that some products may well fulfill certain fields better than other fields. The more fields of the pyramid a product or service fulfills the more desirable it is to the customer, and the fewer fields the product fulfills the better it has to be in these few fields, in order to be competitive. In reality this shows as branding: a certain angle is given to a product by the producer: one phone has a stylish or weird design, another phone is very easy to use, a third phone has exceptional service and is of a sturdy quality, etc.
Systems and solutions that leave the control to the customer, according to the top field in the hierarchy, are the products that will win. Today it’s mostly seen in customization options such as ”building” your Toyota, configuring a new Dell-computer, or coloring your Nike shoes via a web interface. Even though the product in itself is not allowing any form of creativity, it may achieve a competitive advantage if it is “attached” such a possibility in a PR or sales situation.