16 Apr 12
What can your brand do for you?
by Anna Rzemieniewska, Econometrician
I’m sure we all have our favourite brands. Think about the one that came to your mind first. Is it easy to name the things that make it special for you? What is the focus of your favourite brands marketing strategy? Is it a basic function of their product? Or perhaps there’s more passion in their approach? According to a recent article from the World Advertising Research Centre the most meaningful brand strategies sit at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid.
Even though Maslow’s theory on the Hierarchy of Needs has been around for 70 years there is still a lot it can offer when creating a meaningful brand. Maslow suggested that people's needs can be organised into a pyramid, with the most basic needs at the bottom. To develop as individuals, we strive to move up the pyramid, to try and achieve self-actualisation – becoming everything that we are capable of becoming. Can brands help consumers to fulfil some of these needs?
Let’s compare Apple and Nokia as they sell similar types of products. Apple made $46.3 billion profit in Q4 2011 setting an industry record, whereas Nokia lost $1.4 billion in 2011. Why is there such a difference in the performance of these brands? The answer is given in Maslow’s pyramid. Nokia with its “connecting people” slogan reaches the middle of the pyramid. Apple on the other hand stands for “a belief that people with passion can change the world for the better” (S. Jobs). When customers buy an iPhone, they too can claim that they belong to a group of people with a real passion, those striving to change the world for the better. Apple helps them reach the highest level of Maslow’s pyramid.
Most consumers in today’s affluent societies are finding ways to focus on all the categories of needs at the same time. How does the pyramid work in the world where individuals are constantly reinventing themselves? It may be more useful to consider Maslow's categories as a checklist where all boxes need to be ticked, rather than a strict hierarchy. The appeal of this approach is its simplicity. I wouldn’t suggest that Maslow’s pyramid becomes anybody’s bible going forward but it may be a good start for understanding consumer needs and how to respond to these in order to create a meaningful brand.