Human Needs as Basis for Appeals in Advertising

Maslow on ManagementThe basic concepts in marketing tell us that PI: is all about satisfying consumer wants and needs. Product and services are offered by the marketer to satisfy one need or the other. Most of the time needs are well known; but sometimes it is the marketer who creates consumer demand. This is what we call creative marketing. Ultimately, all advertising appeals are created for the purpose of activating human needs and wants, and showing how the advertised brand can satisfy those needs and wants. The advertiser has to determine the needs at which the advertising message should be directed. Though it looks simple, it is, in fact, very difficult to arrive at the right human needs or wants, which would be the basis for ad appeals. Psychologists themselves do not seem to agree upon what constitutes a set of basic human needs. However, there are some generally accepted standard list of need structure, which provide some guidelines to the marketer for developing advertising appeals The most popular and widely accepted need scheme is the one given by A.H. Maslow. Maslow’s basic human need structure states five levels hierarchically. They are:

(i) Physiological Needs or Creature Comforts (Hunger, Thirst, Sex, etc.): These are biological need such as food, water, sleep, and so on, and are the most potent of all human needs. These are therefore placed at the first level of the hierarchy.

(ii) Safety Needs (Security, Protection, etc.): These are based on the needs for physical safety and security, and stress such things as preference of the familiar to the unfamiliar and for the known to the unknown.

(iii) Love Needs (Affection, Belongingness, etc.): These needs are at least partially fulfilled by marriage parenthood and belonging to organizations, such as the Rotary, Lions and others.

(iv) Esteem Needs (Self-Respect, Prestige, Social Approval, Achievement, etc.): As love needs become’ least partially satisfied, the need for such things as prestige, self-respect, esteem and status emerge. The desire for achievement,  independence and self-confidence are also part of these needs.

(v) Self Actualization Needs (Self-Fulfillment, Self-Experience, etc.): The desire for self-fulfillment, or becoming everything one is capable of becoming is the essence of these needs. Included in them are aesthetic satisfaction,’ acquiring knowledge, and so on.

Maslow states that each “higher” need dominates the organism as the lower ones become satisfied or nearly (sufficiently) satisfied. A person who has basically satisfied his physiological and safety needs will become concerned about the satisfaction of progressively higher level needs (love, esteem, self-actualization). One of these five stages is always prepotent, even though the needs at other stages are still influential; that is, some needs from all the five stages may operate on an individual at the time that one stage is dominant. An important point to remember is that a consumer does have to satisfy one class of needs completely before progressing to other classes.

Taking a closer look at the human needs, we find that physiological needs are the most basic of the five basic needs structure of Maslow. The need for food and water is so essential that, without its satisfaction, life would cease to exist. An individual is first concerned about the satisfaction of his food, water, sleep, and other biological needs. In a society where basic physiological needs are not fulfilled, advertisers of food and related products have to depict them as a better way of satisfying the hunger needs. In contrast to this, where most people in a society have this need satisfied, the advertiser should depict the food item as one, which can help to satisfy a higher-level need, i.e., love or esteem, for example. Once the physiological needs have been largely satisfied, every human being is concerned with the next level of his needs, i.e., safety needs. When these two basic needs have been largely satisfied, he is free from constant fear for his safety, health and security. Advertising of food products for the satisfaction of the needs of hunger is hardly necessary.

However, advertising: for economical housing societies, life insurance policies, cheaper but nutritious food, healthy drinking water and promotion of sanitary living conditions – these would still be relevant to our society.
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Next to the safety needs come love needs. Every individual, whose first two levels of needs, have been fairly satisfied, will seek to love and would like to be loved by others. Love, here, is not to be construed as synonymous with the physiological sense. Sex involves both physiological and psychological gratification. Sex is often used in advertising, as a means of satisfying both physiological and love needs. Advertisers have made an extensive use of sex appeals in their advertising. However, these appeals are aimed at the satisfaction of the love need (affection).