Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs In A Nutshell

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was developed by American psychologist Abraham Maslow. His hierarchy, often depicted in the shape of a pyramid, helped explain his research on basic human needs and desires. In marketing, the hierarchy (and its basis in psychology) can be used to market to specific groups of people based on their similarly specific needs, desires, and resultant actions.

Understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in a marketing context

A simplified overview of the hierarchy is as follows, starting from the most basic needs and progressing to the most complex. There are five levels in total.

  1. Physiological.
  2. Safety.
  3. Belonging. 
  4. Self-esteem. 
  5. Self-actualization. 

Marketers can target any and all of these levels in the marketing campaigns, depending on the motivations of their target audience. Let’s return to the five levels in the context of marketing, and why consumers on these levels require distinct marketing strategies.


Consumers who are driven by the most basic needs often reside in third world countries or come from low socio-economic backgrounds. 

However, some basic needs go unmet regardless of financial standing. Pharmaceutical companies, for example, recognize the fundamental need for sleep in insomniacs. Clean drinking water is also a physiological need that some businesses market aggressively.


Consumers on this level have the most basic physiological needs met, but they may have difficulty securing stable employment, housing, or healthcare. Fundamentally, consumers on this level have a need for stability and security. 

Businesses who are involved in selling insurance, retirement living, and alarm systems some that benefit from marketing strategies focused on stability and security. Banks also touch on the need for shelter when marketing their home loan packages.


The third level is where most middle-class consumers reside. As a result, it is potentially the most lucrative for businesses. With basic needs met, this level has discretionary income to spend on clothing, sport, and entertainment among other things. 

The consumer’s need for belonging means they are motivated to buy if it means they will fit in. They tend to have larger circles of family and friends and more disposal income, increasing the effectiveness of word-of-mouth marketing strategies.


Consumers on this level are motivated by a need to respect themselves and also gain the respect of others. They also want to feel important and accomplished. Some have a need to make the most of their life and become fulfilled, while others are motivated by status and vanity. 

Organizations that sell higher-end products such as luxury cars, club memberships, and fine wine can reap the rewards of touching on these motivational points in their marketing campaigns.


Consumers with a plentiful supply of time and money have a need to solve problems, be creative, and have their lives filled with meaningful activities. This is self-actualization, or the realizing of one’s talents or abilities. 

The U.S Army recruitment slogan “Be all you can be” is a good example of marketing to consumers with a need for purposeful self-actualization.

Key takeaways:

  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs argues that all humans have universal needs which they must meet. 
  • Maslow’s needs range from basic necessities such as food and water to more abstract needs such as love, self-esteem, and life purpose.
  • Consumers on each level of the hierarchy have different needs, requiring unique, tailored marketing strategies.

Read Next: OKRSMART Goals.

Related Management Concepts


Andy Grove, helped Intel become among the most valuable companies by 1997. In his years at Intel, he conceived a management and goal-setting system, called OKR, standing for “objectives and key results.” Venture capitalist and early investor in Google, John Doerr, systematized in the book “Measure What Matters.”

Smart Goals

A SMART goal is any goal with a carefully planned, concise, and trackable objective. To be such a goal needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. Bringing structure and trackability to goal setting increases the chances goals will be achieved, and it helps align the organization around those goals.


Micromanagement is about tightly controlling or observing employees’ work. Although this management style might be understood in some cases, especially for small-scale projects, generally speaking, micromanagement has a negative connotation mainly because it shows a lack of trust and freedom in the workplace, which leads to adverse outcomes.

Delegative Leadership

Developed by business consultants Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey in the 1960s, delegative leadership is a leadership style where authority figures empower subordinates to exercise autonomy. For this reason, it is also called laissez-faire leadership. In some cases, this leadership type can lead to increased work quality and decision-making. In a few other cases, this type of leadership needs to be balanced out to prevent a lack of direction and cohesiveness in the team.

Agile Leadership

Agile leadership is the embodiment of agile manifesto principles by a manager or management team. Agile leadership impacts two important levels of a business. The structural level defines the roles, responsibilities, and key performance indicators. The behavioral level describes the actions leaders exhibit to others based on agile principles. 

Active Listening

Active listening is the process of listening attentively while someone speaks and displaying understanding through verbal and non-verbal techniques. Active listening is a fundamental part of good communication, fostering a positive connection and building trust between individuals.

Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive leadership is a model used by leaders to help individuals adapt to complex or rapidly changing environments. Adaptive leadership is defined by three core components (precious or expendable, experimentation and smart risks, disciplined assessment). Growth occurs when an organization discards ineffective ways of operating. Then, active leaders implement new initiatives and monitor their impact.

RASCI Matrix

A RASCI matrix is used to assign and then display the various roles and responsibilities in a project, service, or process. It is sometimes called a RASCI Responsibility Matrix. The RASCI matrix is essentially a project management tool that provides important clarification for organizations involved in complex projects.

Flat Organizational Structure

In a flat organizational structure, there is little to no middle management between employees and executives. Therefore it reduces the space between employees and executives to enable an effective communication flow within the organization, thus being faster and leaner.

Tactical Management

Tactical management involves choosing an appropriate course of action to achieve a strategic plan or objective. Therefore, tactical management comprises the set of daily operations that support long strategy delivery. It may involve risk management, regular meetings, conflict resolution, and problem-solving.

High-Performance Management

High-performance management involves the implementation of HR practices that are internally consistent and aligned with organizational strategy. Importantly, high-performance management is a continual process where several different but integrated activities create a performance management cycle. It is not a process that should be performed once a year and then hidden in a filing cabinet.

Scientific Management

Scientific Management Theory was created by Frederick Winslow Taylor in 1911 to encourage industrial companies to switch to mass production. With a background in mechanical engineering, he applied engineering principles to workplace productivity on the factory floor. Scientific Management Theory seeks to find the most efficient way to perform a workplace job.

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