Motivational-need theories have been essential in developing various models that are used in defining consumer behaviour (Solomon, 2009). For instance, Maslow’s need hierarchy theory which states some specific needs need to be fulfilled by an individual before needs that are higher in the hierarchy becomes salient. In this case, the interrelationship between the needs that individuals have in the society is specified. According to Maslow’s need hierarchy theory, the physiological needs come first, followed by security needs, social needs, self-esteem needs and finally the self-actualisation needs (Maslow, 1965).
In the recent past, learning and aesthetic needs were added into Maslow’s need hierarchy theory. In this case, the attitude of an individual is known to elicit arousal and it gives direction to the behaviour of individuals which in turn defines their decision-making process in buying. Though the motivational theories have been used extensively in human resource management, and thus making motivational theories to be rarely applied in consumer research, recent developments and the increase in the understanding of various the essence of motivational theories have enhanced the application of these theories in consumer research (Solomon, 2009).
For instance, the realisation of the consumer needs, desires and wants depends on the level of an individual’s motivation has made Maslow’s need hierarchy theory to receive significant popularity for it is relevance in the marketing concept, despite the overwhelming evidence refuting the existence of such hierarchies.
This essay presents a critique of the application of Maslow’s need hierarchy theory in the consumer buying process based on the relevance of the provisions of this theory today.
2.0. Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory and consumer behaviour In consumer behaviour, it is hard to figure out what drives various decisions among the customer. The key issue is that, the consumers have a crucial need that requires to be fulfilled. This is a key motivation for marketers since it will make the consumers spend as they satisfy their needs. When there is dissatisfaction among the consumers, they fight to ensure that they are able to satisfy their needs by covering the void that results from the imbalance created by lack of satisfaction. In one of the theories by Rodgers (2003) which were aimed at challenging Maslow’s need hierarchy theory, Market Rodgers summed his theory by stating that, brand strategist employ the use of Maslow’s model as a mean through which they define and build on needs that brand X fulfils. Based on this hierarchy need theory of motivation, an individual needs to satisfy the lower level needs in order for them to proceed to the higher growth needs (Oleson, 2004). In this case, Maslow stated that each person is capable of moving up the hierarchy and every person strives to do this.
However, it is unfortunate that the progress among individuals is interrupted by their failure to meet the lower level needs (Rodgers, 2003). Some circumstances that people find themselves in make them to take decisions that do not observe the hierarchy needs as described by Maslow. For instance, celebrities may begin with the basic physiological needs in the society and they loop the other stages to the stage of self-actualisation which is a need for recognition (Wier & Smed, 2000). Similarly, events like divorce or loss of job can make a person to fluctuate between the different levels of hierarchy needs. Maslow’s hierarchy theory of needs is frequently used by marketers in explaining the nature of demand expected from the customers in the market. Maslow’s hierarchy theory was developed in a way that it indicates what drives the needs that motivate individuals. The hierarchy needs theory was developed in a way that for a person to satisfy that the needs described up the pyramid, they must have been able to satisfy that need s appearing from below the table (Harold & Drillings, 2012). In this case, considering the nature of consumption in the market, and the relationship that exists between the individual needs and the decisions that are made in the buying process, it is easier for marketers to understand why the customers make various purchase decisions.
I. Physiological needs
Considering the physiological demands of individuals which are at the bottom of the pyramid, these are basic needs to all individuals and all people need to strive to satisfy them (Rakowski, 2011). These needs are a priority to all individuals in the market and there is no way that a consumer could loop through the physiological needs to satisfy any other needs in the market (Rakowski, 2011). Until the basic physiological needs of an individual are satisfied, most of the activities of an individual will be aimed at achieving the needs at this level and this therefore makes the other needs to provide insignificant motivation to individuals. There are many companies which have the main objective of selling foods and drinks. From a business perspective, the main goal is to find a way through which they sell their products to the prospect consumers in the market (Yalch, 1996). When it comes to the challenges that are associated with convincing the customers to make purchases, the selling of foods is found to be easier as compared to other products (Oleson, 2004). This mainly because food is a basic requirement for all people and all people need to eat or take some of the drinks.
However, the costs or the prices of the products serve that the greatest determinant of the ability of the consumer to purchase the desired product. In regard to the satisfaction of the physiological needs, there are very low costs that are used in fulfilling the needs of individuals (Harold & Drillings, 2012). When making such purchasing decisions, McDonald may not be a healthier choice for a customer, however, it gets the needs filled and it does that cheaply. There are many other companies that deal in the manufacture and sell of beds. All these companies try to position themselves in a way that they are perceived to provide the best night’s sleep at the best prices for the value which the customers purchases the beds. In this case, the need for sleep is high, but the difference arises as the customers try to get or improve the quality of their sleep.
In the case of people who are less fortunate, it is essential to understand that it is difficult for them to easily satisfy their physiological needs. For most of the consumers in this category, their main worry is whether they will be able to meet their next meal. For most of the other consumers, it is about establishing a fine dining experience. Some of the high-end restaurants that focus on the quality of the foods that they offer the clients will draw the attention of the customers who will need to enjoy the experience that accompanies the meals offered. The greatest challenge that the marketers face in the market in relation to establishing their market positioning is that, it is the challenge of convincing the customers to consume what they offer (Whelan & Barnes-Holmes, 2010). This explains where the marketers spend much of their time and money in making advertisements and other cost lowering efforts. When the costs that are associated with the purchase of a given product are low, the amount of time that is spent on making such kind of decisions is lowered. Therefore, the marketers have to determine the fact that they are always the first things that comes into mind.
II. Safety needs
The category of the safety needs is more complex as compared to the physiological needs (Rodgers, 2003). The safety needs do not consider short-term and immediate as the physiological needs since they deal with long-term issues (Oleson, 2004). Companies like linked in and monster.com which assists people in searching for jobs results into the creation of multiple safety needs not only for the safety needs of the individuals but, the rest of the needs identified in the hierarchy. This makes such companies to have a strong foundation since they are able to separate themselves from other companies in order to ensure that they are able to draw consumers towards them. Given the nature of the safety needs among the consumers, most people are found to spend much more time in making their decisions relating to their choices. In the modern business environment, the need for people to secure their safety and security has led to a significant growth in the types of businesses in many different areas (Kreitner, 20). In reference to the marketing approaches that are adopted by these firms in the market, the ability of a firm to convince the target customers that they offer the best services is critical. Though cost still remains a crucial factor in the decision making process among the buyers, safety is an aspect that most people are willing spend huge sums of money to ensure that they are safe. In reference to this, many banking and insurance institutions spend significantly huge amounts of funds in ensuring that their clients plan their future (Solomon, 2009). In this case, these companies compete in offering rational information to the consumers.
III. Sense of belonging
Love, friendship and sense of belonging are the two key aspects that dictate how a person feels when they interact with others (Kreitner, 20). This based on the way they think the others perceive them as a result of how they feel accepted (Whelan & Barnes-Holmes, 2010). The need of getting support, affection and connection with others is a significant part of experience that people have in life. Currently, dating sites are banking on the needs of people to establish friendship, love and acceptance. This has led to the boom of the number of dating websites which receive significant following. Almost all the dating sites that have been well marketed have always reported significant growth. Being identified or associate with a given group tends to define a person’s identity (Harold & Drillings, 2012).
For instance, the purchase of certain products by individuals is influenced by the reference group. This is based on the fact that people purchase things that make them feel that they are part of “the crowd”. Apparently, when I was growing up, “cool kids” were known to wear specific things and one could be seen an outsider for not wearing these kind of things. There are many different companies that offer consumers with various ways through which they can feel and enjoy life as a family group. Disney which is a fortune 500 company has always ensured that the trip that it offers families to Orlando is full of memories that last among the family members for a relatively long period of time. Such kind of family trips or other outings for instance to dinner parties are always marketed as techniques that improve the family bonding experience. Facebook is a good example of how the need for love, friendship and belonging can be fulfilled among people. Although the social websites are free for the customers, they capitalise on the need of belonging and association among people and they make significant gains from advertisements that are made by companies which have now shifted to making social media advertisements.
IV. Esteem Needs
The esteem needs have created much of consumerism that has made this country to be what it is today (Kreitner, 2009). The idea of self-esteem, achievement respect and confidence among individuals has a significant influence on the buying behaviour of people since some of the purchases that are made in the market are based on people’s personality attributes and how they want to be perceived by others (Rakowski, 2011). For instance, the kind of car that a person drives, the kind of a house that a person buys are tied up to an individual’s esteem. This takes us back to the need of belonging were some people need to be associated with a certain group and they therefore make their purchase decisions based on their reference group. There are many different companies that are investing based on the esteem needs that individuals are found to have in the society. The personality of an individual is closely aligned with the esteem of an individual and his ability to strengthen the powers of achieving his needs (Yalch, 1996). According to the Maslow hierarchy need theory, the needs that come lower in the pyramid are portrayed to be superior to those coming at the upper sections of the pyramid; however, the esteem needs are significantly essential as well in regard to the purchasing behaviour of individuals (Rakowski, 2011). For instance, very many companies dealing in many different products as far as the hairstyles, colognes consumers make many different purchase decisions nearly on a daily basis. Since some decisions that the customers make are long-term; for instance, in the purchase of a car, there is a significant need for extensive analysis and a significant need for better marketing.
Once all the other needs are achieved, the consumers find themselves in a position of self-actualisation (McGuire, 2012). This indicates that at this level, the consumers are not cumbered by external forces since they have established a good understanding of what they want to become and who they are. The section of self-actualisation is where Maslow’s need hierarchy appreciates that true creativity and acceptance of various facts among people (Wier & Smed, 2000). At this point, the marketers are aware that these kinds of people are not easily convinced by the marketing activities. This is because this is the segment that order tor custom made products. This explains why companies like the automobile companies provide an opportunity for people to custom design their vehicles. These people are charged significantly huge amounts in order to achieve their desires. There are many automobile, construction and housing companies and many other companies that make significant gains by providing the customers with a chance to custom design their products.
From these findings, Maslow’s need hierarchy motivation theory has a significant relevance in today’s marketing environment. This is evidenced from the many different companies that are found to make significant gains by focusing on satisfying various levels of individual needs. For instance, companies dealing in foods and drinks tend to capitalise of the physiological needs of the customers, insurance and banking companies invest on the fulfilment of safety needs of people in the society, social networking companies like Facebook, twitter, WeChat and many other sites make their earnings by fulfilling the need of belonging among people, the clothing, hairdressing, colognes and automobile companies invest in the esteem needs of individuals and finally, the ability of marketers to appreciate the nature of the individuals at their self-actualisation need levels has made many automobile and construction & housing companies to made significant gains by allowing such people to fulfil their wants by custom making their products. In conclusion, based on the findings of the study conducted above, it is clear that as the consumers move up the hierarchy of needs, money becomes less a consideration for purchase. This therefore indicates that each of Maslow’s hierarchy need has a particular good and service with them. Marketers therefore need to consider the characteristics of their consumers based on their order of needs before making the selling decisions as the description provided by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has a significant influence on the customers buying process.
Harold, F. O. & Drillings, M. 2012, Motivation: Theory and Research, Routledge, New Jersey. Kreitner, M. 2009, Management: Motivational theories, 8th edn, Cengage Learning. Available at: http://books.google.co.ke/books?id=GRvUF0pv41sC&pg=PA378&dq=Maslow%27s+Need+Hierarchy+theory&hl=en&sa=X&ei=-dyIUuO9OtOI7Aat24HgDw&ved=0CCwQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Maslow%27s%20Need%20Hierarchy%20theory&f=false McGuire, K. J. 2012, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, GRIN Verlag, New York. Oleson, M. 2004, ‘Exploring the relationship between money attitudes and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’, International Journal of Consumer Studies, vol 28, no. 1, pp. 83-92. Rakowski, N. 2011, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Model – the Difference