Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
In a hierarchy of motives, the most influential motive is seen as enjoying the most dominant position, and so on throughout the entire list. The hierarchy of needs proposed by Abraham H. Maslow is perhaps the best known and is a good guide to general behavior.
Maslow classified needs into five groupings, ranking in order of importance from low-level (biogenic) needs to higher-level (psychogenic) needs, and suggesting the degree to which each would influence human behavior.
According to this scheme, individuals strive to fulfill lower-level needs first before higher-level needs become active. The lowest level of unfulfilled need of an individual serves to motivate her/his behavior.
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When this need is fairly satisfied, a new higher-order need becomes active and motivates the individual. If a lower-order need again becomes active due to renewed deprivation, it may temporarily become more active again.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs reminds us that people attach different priorities to different needs that they become aware of but it should not be seen as a definitive specification of to what these priorities may be.
There is a possibility that this ordering of needs may correspond with the priorities of many of us, it definitely does not represent everyone’s priorities in all situations. It is likely that some individuals may ignore needs on the lower rung sometimes in pursuit of higher-order needs.
According to Maslow, the first and most basic level of needs is physiological. These needs are essential to sustain biological life and include air, water, food, shelter, clothing, and sex: all the primary or biogenic needs.
Physiological needs are very potent when they are chronically unfulfilled. In his book, ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’, Maslow says, “For the man who is extremely and dangerously hungry, no other interest exists but food.
He dreams food, he remembers food, he thinks about food, he emotes only about food, he perceives only food and he wants only food.” The huge global success of the anti-impotency drug Sildenafil Citrate (Viagra etc.) and other similar salts furnishes strong proof of the importance of our sexual needs.
After physiological needs, safety and security needs acquire the driving force and influence an individual’s behavior. These needs are concerned with much more than only physical safety and health but also include routine, familiarity, security, certainty, stability, etc.
For example, labor unions in India provide members with the security of employment. Safety needs motivate us to purchase personal protection devices. Auto and tire manufacturers appeal to consumers’ safety needs. Ads of OTC medicines, exercise equipment, health foods, etc. focus on our health needs.
The third level, social needs include love, affection, acceptance, belonging and friendship, etc. By and large, humans are social creatures and need warm and satisfying human relationships with others. People have strong attachments to their families and are motivated by love and affection.
Products are often used as symbols of love and caring. For example, flowers, greeting cards, chocolates, jewelry, and diamonds are given as tokens of affection for someone. Ads of personal care products often emphasize appeals based on social acceptance.
The fourth level is concerned with ego needs. These needs include reputation, prestige, status, self-esteem, success, independence, etc. Many ads for ego-intensive products emphasize ego appeals such as expensive watches, jewelry, designer dresses, etc. The term conspicuous consumption is related to ego needs. It describes consumer purchases motivated to some extent by the desire to show others just how successful one is.
Maslow believed that most people are unable to satisfy their ego needs sufficiently and as a result of this are unable to move to the fifth and last level. Self-actualization refers to a person’s desire to achieve or become what one is capable of. People express this need in different ways.
The only common thing is that they all seem to be striving for excellence in whatever they are doing. They work singlemindedly for years to achieve what they want.
Evaluation of Maslow’s Need Hierarchy
The theory has received wide recognition among practicing managers and in social disciplines as it appears to reflect the inferred human motivations. This can be attributed to the theory’s intuitive logic and ease of understanding. The five need levels are generic enough to cover most human needs.
The major problem with the need hierarchy theory is that research does not generally validate the theory. It is not at all possible to measure accurately how satisfied one need is before the next higher-level need becomes active.
Despite criticisms, Malow’s theory is widely used by marketers to understand how various products or services fit into the plans, goals, and lives of potential consumers. It is used to develop suitable advertising appeals, enabling marketers to focus on a need level that is shared by a large audience in the target market.
For example, soft drink commercials directed at the younger generation stress social appeal by showing a group of young people sharing good times and the advertised soft drink. It also facilitates developing product positioning so that the product is perceived in a manner desired by the marketer.