How Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs relates to brands

Think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs through the lens of brands and what it means…

Maslow came up with his famous model back in the 1940s and it still has massive relevance today used as a theory of motivation. It has been the foundation for many other theories of human developmental psychology.

Where it draws further relevance is how it relates to our own consumption and what that says about us as humans. The connection between our own psychology and how that is defined by what we consume is an interesting one. Karl Marx referred to it as commodity fetishism, where brands become symbols for a person’s own self-concept.

Brands are created and consumed to fill these needs. Take any market whether it is fashion or food and you’ll find brands that simply fulfill the physiological need of clothing or filling our bellies. Businesses that operate in this marketplace are price-sensitive and are really commodity offerings. Their desirability is based around price and the relative cheap quality.

As you go up the pyramid you’ll find brands fulfill larger emotional holes in peoples lives. In particular, luxury brands play to the esteem need. They impart a sense of worth and are non-verbal expressions of a persons own self image. Whether that is shopping in Whole Foods or Harrods Food Hall, there are brands to cater for every need along the pyramid.

Finally, you find in society today the pinnacle of this pyramid, the self-actualisation need is fulfilled by life style gurus, self help experts. Individuals who talk about how once acquiring everything that there is to acquire one still feels unfulfilled and one needs to look inside, to become the best one can be. Previously this need was filled by a mission, religion or spirituality, now that has been commercialised by people like Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, and so forth.