The purpose of this report is to research a needs and motivation theory and apply it to analyse my consumer behaviour. The theory explored in this report is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which still remains one of the most accepted theories in many spheres, including marketing. The first section of this report will provide a brief overview of the theory, as well as its possible applications to consumer behaviour. The second section of the report will provide the analysis of my behaviour as a consumer from the point of view of Maslow’s approach. The third section will include the detailed reflection on my consumer behaviour. The final section will provide conclusions derived from the conducted analysis.
Explanation of Consumer Behaviour Theory
One of the most popular and widely accepted theories that attempts to explain needs and motivation is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs developed in the mid-20th century (Schiffman et al. 2014, 90). According to this theory, all humans are born with a basic set of needs that can be divided into five categories, with each category being situated on a certain level in the hierarchy. The lowest level is the most basic one and also commonly perceived as the most important one, while the highest level needs are usually considered less important and are not always fulfilled during a lifetime.
The first level consists of physiological needs, whose satisfaction is necessary to preserve own biological life and health. These needs include food, water, sleep, air, shelter, clothing and sex (Schiffman et al. 2014, 90). The examples of advertisements that appeal to the satisfaction of this level of needs include pictures of juicy hamburgers or advertisements of sportsmen drinking water after a workout or a victory in a competition (Lamb, Hair, and McDaniel 2008, 167). One of the brands in Australia, ALDI, has created a number of video commercials advertising food in a very appealing manner, highlighting that it is always very fresh. The slogans of the video commercials of tomatoes and berries are “So Fresh Tomatoes” and “So Fresh Berries”, and the videos depict people feeling very calm, healthy and satisfied when consuming the food. The second level consists of safety and security needs that are not only physical, but also include stability, routine, order, and familiarity of the surroundings, as well as being in control (Schiffman et al. 2014, 91). Marketers appeal to satisfy this level of needs when promoting safe cars, health screening, insurance, etc. In Australia, the government actively advertises Medicare as a solution to multiple problems, including homelessness, health problems, unemployment, etc. Social needs form the third category that is based on belongingness, love, acceptance and affiliation motives (Schiffman et al. 2014, 92). Marketers often use this level of needs to promote their products, as they are well-aware of people’s need to feel loved and belong. For example, marketers often target teenagers as the group most susceptible to peer-pressure and wanting to fit in. Advertisements of clothing brands, including Nike, Adidas, Gap and many others make teens believe that they will be considered “cool” and, this way, will fit in (Lamb, Hair, and McDaniel 2008, 168). The fourth level is based on self-esteem and ego needs. They include a positive self-image, self-acceptance, independence, a feeling of accomplishment and own usefulness (Burnett 2008, 89; Schiffman et al. 2014, 92). To fulfil these needs, people seek status, superiority, prestige, reputation and recognition by others. All famous and expensive brands appeal to satisfy this need in their marketing campaigns (Lamb, Hair, and McDaniel 2008, 168). For example, most Mercedes-Benz advertisements feature a very attractive image of a car that looks posh and expensive, followed by a concise slogan that promises status. One of such slogans was “The only thing that’s not relative. Perfection”. It highlighted the opportunity to buy a perfect car, in which a person will also feel and be seen as ultimately perfect. The fifth and final level is the need for self-actualization, which means that every person feels a desire to reach own full potential, apply own abilities to the fullest extent. The fulfilment of this need depends on a person’s particular interests and capacities, and they are not necessarily of a creative nature. Advertisements that appeal to this urge stress that a person can improve his or her life and fulfil a purpose by using their product. For example, in the United States, the U.S. Navy invited people in with a slogan “Accelerate Your Life” (Lamb, Hair, and McDaniel 2008, 169). In Australia, Open Colleges, one of the leaders in online education, created a commercial that attracted students with a slogan “Achieving your goal is easy”, thus, appealing to their need to fulfil own plans and achieve own life goals in order to become who they want to be. This is the most accepted version of hierarchy of needs, but Maslow has revised it later and added three additional levels above the esteem level: cognitive needs, which include needs for education, knowledge and experience expansion, aesthetic needs, which are satisfied by art, music, beauty, etc., and transcendence needs satisfied by volunteering (Lantos 2015, 386).
While it is often thought that a person has to meet own most basic needs to a minimum extent before the needs of higher levels become relevant, the needs actually do not mutually exclude one another. In fact, John Burnett (2008, 89) explained that an individual may have several needs at once, and personal hierarchy of needs may be different for each person depending on the relative importance of each need he or she experiences simultaneously. However, as Hawkins and Mothersbaugh (2010, 361) precisely point out in their book, in exceptional circumstances people can give up satisfaction of their low-level needs in order to satisfy the higher-level ones. For example, a mother can be hungry, but choose to give her share of food to her child. At the same time, the important importance of each category to a person can be influenced by a society, in which such person is raised (Hawkins and Mothersbaugh 2010, 360). For example, in certain Eastern societies, a need for affiliation and group acceptance can be sometimes considered more important than other lower-level needs. Although there are numerous exceptions from Maslow’s theory, it serves well as a universal guide to consumer behaviour and motivations, and marketers can use it to target groups of people with similar needs, as well as target several levels of needs at once.
Consumer Behaviour Theory Influence on Personal Consumer Behaviour
According to the theory, my physiological needs have to be satisfied first before I move on to recognizing and satisfying higher-level needs. Since my most basic needs are met, I satisfy them routinely when they occur, and, for this reason, they are not the most important ones in my journal. Instead, most of my purchases were influenced by self-esteem, safety and social needs. In fact, three items from my journal that are usually aimed at the satisfaction of physiological needs were purchased to satisfy ego needs. Although I could buy food of any other brand, I preferred buying fried chicken from KFC because I wanted to treat myself with favourite food, which met my needs for personal satisfaction. Also, I could buy any water bottle, but I spent some time looking for a popular one, and having this bottle satisfied my need of recognition. I also bought drinking yogurt not simply to satisfy my hunger, but primarily because I take care of myself and try to eat healthy food, which satisfies my self-respect need. For this reason, I also bought Nike running shoes, a choice dictated by the need for recognition from others, since Nike shoes are known to be quite expensive. Buying them also satisfied my need for security, because I am very familiar with this brand. Other things that were bought to make me feel good about myself were quilt cover sets for my bedroom, which also satisfied my safety needs by helping me control the environment and making sure I will feel warm in my bed, a pen, a USB and a lamp. A USB also satisfied my social needs, and it helped me interact with my friends at school by sharing information. For this same reason I bought a sim card and Singapore Airline plane tickets to fly to Singapore. In the latter case, I made an extensive research to make sure I use the most safe and comfortable airlines, which positively influence my self-esteem.
Reflection on Personal Consumer Behaviour
According to my journal, I am a conscious and loyal consumer because I prefer to stick to the brands that I am familiar with and I tend to do a medium level of information search before making a purchase, unless it is routine. I pay attention to the price of a product, but it is not the most important criterion on my list. I prefer to buy lower-price items when their quality is enough for me, and I do not feel the need to buy the higher-priced product. In my journal, this tendency is reflected in my purchase of a lamp, a pen and food. When buying these products, I did low research and preferred to go for medium to low price because I was sure that the quality of these products for high enough for me, and I felt no need to buy the more expensive ones. According to my journal, people have medium influence on my consumer behaviour, which means that from time to time I ask for advice and listen to other people’s opinion before buying a product. I may also purchase an item if it is currently popular and trendy, but when my purchases are either not very important or need to reflect my personality, outward influence is quite low. For example, when buying a USB or a plane ticket, I consulted with my family and my friends. According to Maslow’s theory, both the process of buying and the product itself partly satisfied my social needs by making me feel connection my friends and love from my family (Schiffman et al. 2014, 90). At the same time, decisions regarding my food, clothes and home were not influenced by others, since I wanted to make a personal choice and, this way, satisfy my need for self-esteem and independence (Schiffman et al. 2014, 92).
Maslow’s approach categorizes human needs into five levels, with each subsequent level consisting of needs that are less important in comparison with the previous level needs. Marketers often apply this theory to the marketing campaigns when targeting a group of people with similar needs. For me, the most relevant needs are currently ego needs that include needs for independence, self-esteem, respect and self-respect, reputation, etc. This tendency is reflected in my purchases, which are mostly done out of self-esteem needs. Other needs that are important for me include safety and social needs. My journal shows that I am a loyal and conscious consumer with a medium influence of others on my consumer decisions and a need to conduct a medium to high level of information research before buying the products. I do not tend to buy either very cheap or very expensive products, but consider the product’s quality and its importance for me. However, my consumer behaviour largely depends on the products I buy.
Burnett, John. 2008. Core Concepts of Marketing. Athens, GA: Global Text Project.
Hawkins, Del I., and David L. Mothersbaugh. 2010. Consumer Behavior: Building Marketing Strategy. 11th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Lantos, Geoffrey Paul. 2015. Consumer Behavior in Action: Real-life Applications for Marketing Managers. New York, NY: Routledge.
Lamb, Charles, Joe Hair, and Carl McDaniel. 2008. Essentials of Marketing. 6th ed. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.
Schiffman, Leon, Aron O'Cass, Angela Paladino, and Jamie Carlson. 2014. Consumer Behaviour. 6th ed. Frenchs Forest, N.S.W.: Pearson Australia.