Dr. Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs

Dr. Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs

A basic theory for understanding consumers' motives for action. Products / Services that meet consumers' needs closely are more likely to motivate purchasing. 

Dr. Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs presents 5 basic levels of human needs which rank in order of importance, from lower-level needs to higher-level needs. 

Consumers will satisfy lower-level needs before they will be motivated to act upon higher-level needs. 
Example: People will have to satisfy thirst, before the need for belonging. 

Physiological Needs
The literal requirements for human survival. Food, Water, Air, Shelter, Clothes, Sleep, Excretion. 

Safety / Security Needs:
Requirements for a stable, orderly living environment, where unfairness and risks / threats are under control. Health Care, Law Enforcement, Employment, Financial Security (Banks & Savings), Personal Security, Well-Being, National Security (Military). 

Social Needs
Yearning for feelings of belonging or acceptance through relationships with others. Family, Friends, Intimacy, Office Culture, Social Activities (Sports, Games, Dating, Clubbing), Religious Groups. 

Ego / Esteem Needs
Desire to have respect, and to have self-respect. There are 2 levels. 
The lower-level is the respect of other - Status, Recognition, Fame, Prestige, Attention. 
The higher-level is self-respect - Sense of Contribution, Independence, Competence, Mastery, Freedom. 

Self-Actualization Needs:  
Desire to realize a person's full potential and express his/her highest ambition. 


Limitations of Dr. Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs

- The layers are not strictly separate, and can overlap. Shelter can be a Physiological Need, a Safety Need, and an Ego Need. Sex can be a Physiological Need, a Social Need, and an Ego Need. 

- It cannot be tested empirically. It doesn't account for all situations; ie: Girls who starve themselves (Physiological) to look good (Ego). In this case, the higher-level need takes precedence over the lower-level need. 

- There is no way to ascertain precisely how satisfied one level of need must be. 

- People can shuffle their needs as their life changes. 

- It is silent on certain needs. 
  • Need for Information (Education, Wisdom, Knowledge, Skill Mastery, Technology) 
  • Need for Comfort (Why some people choose to fly 1st Class for more Legroom). 

- Doesn't account for international cultural differences. Most notably, Geert Hofstede's criticism that this model neglects the difference between the needs of those raised in individualistic societies and those raised in collectivist societies. 
Since the hierarchy was written from the perspective of an individualist, the order of needs in the hierarchy with self-actualization at the top is not representative of the needs of those in collectivist cultures. 
In collectivist societies, the needs of acceptance and community will outweigh the needs for freedom and individuality.


Despite the limitations, Dr. Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs is still used, as it is the closest model of human needs. To date, there hasn't been a better theory proposed. 

Thus, it is important for Business Owners and Marketers / Sales personnel to understand.