Maslow & Branding: Last 3

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by: Jennifer Rice

We're almost to the end of the series on Maslow and Branding. I'll wrap up the last three needs in Maslow's hierarchy here, and then we'll look at how they all interact in social networks.

Cognitive: This is about learning and understanding the world around us. While many people still blindly accept the doctrines of traditional authority (church, state, corporations, media, etc.), others are taking control, asking questions and seeking answers. Brands that knock down barriers to knowledge and provide easy access are delivering on this need. These aren't just the obvious brands like Google; they're also brands that practice transparency and educate customers on the how's and why's of their products, services and business practices. Transparency and openness deliver on customers' desire to know. FedEx tracking is a great example (of both Cognitive and Control). And of course, blogs and forums fit into this category as well.

Self-actualization: Nike pioneered the focus on self-actualization with their famous "Just Do It" tag line. Home Depot followed suit with "You can do it. We can help." Brands that demonstrate a belief in their customers' abilities will win the hearts and minds of those who want to reach higher and accomplish more. But it needs to be more than just talk or a nice tag line. Microsoft's campaign, "Where do you want to go today?" appeals to this need, but I haven't found a lot of supporting evidence for the promise (of course, I haven't looked very hard.). How about creating more interactivity with customers, learning where they want to go, offering online education classes, or perhaps social networking tools that connect mentors with learners?

Transcendence. This need is about giving back, enriching others or championing a greater cause. The Body Shop was founded on core values like environmental protection; their web site reminds visitors, "Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, that's the only thing that ever does." The Toyota Prius won Edmund's Consumer's Choice for Most Significant Vehicle in 2004. Cause-related brands have strong appeal to small but loyal customer segments.

So now we've looked at 8 core consumer needs: Security, Connection, Esteem, Control, Aesthetic, Cognitive, Self-Actualization and Transcendence. As someone pointed out in an earlier post, it's not such a clean, linear hierarchy in real life. How they interact will be the subject of the next post.

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