Maslow and Corporate Responsibility

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by: Jennifer Rice

I’ve always been interested in leveraging Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to inform development of customer-based brand strategies. A couple years ago I wrote several posts about each of the stages (summary here).

Recently I’ve been thinking about how it applies to CSR efforts, especially in light of the economic downturn. As the economy grew, more consumers and businesses could be found at the top of the hierarchy… going beyond the “me” focus and expanding into greater awareness of social and environmental issues. I would theorize that in an economic downturn that many consumers and businesses that aren’t firmly anchored in the top part of the pyramid would drop back down to the base, focusing primarily on security and safety.

But here’s what’s happening: the recession is slowing CSR efforts among businesses, yet consumers are continuing to purchase green products at the same rate as last year. So while businesses are dropping to the bottom of the pyramid, values-driven consumers remain at the top.

Bottom line? Smart businesses will continue to invest at the top of the pyramid (TOP), capturing preference among TOP consumers and building equity for future growth in this segment when the economy improves.

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