Redmarketer

May 16, 2008

Consumer Self Actualization (Part 1)

Filed under: Green MKTG, Marketing Philosophy — Robert John Ed @ 2:08 pm

Another spark from A Whole New Mind:

Self actualization is a term that stems from the pyramid of human needs (see inset) that Dr. Abraham Maslow created in 1943. Most people are familiar with this concept. It’s very important, because generally it is a blueprint for what the majority of mankind will do given certain resources.

We start with the physiological needs and move up as we garner the most pressing areas of livelihood. Some never get to self actualization, others are searching for it now and will be for the rest of their lives. It’s an intriguing subject and worth thinking about in terms of your own life.

What needs to be addressed is that the way we consumer products and services is also hindered by a similar hierarchy. As consumers the first and most important things we buy are physiological (water, food, shelter) in order to survive. It all moves up from there. Though the things we buy aren’t necessarily direct representations of the pyramid (IE you can’t buy love and belonging), the things we buy are normally tools to help us to achieve those goals. That means that we will buy a car because of the way we think people will perceive us in it; but only after we have addressed the more fundamental needs of a stable form of transportation to work, which provides a stable income, which provides the means necessary to acquire the physiological tenants of life.

A car is a simple example because it’s a life altering purchase. Look at the smaller purchases and kinds of brands you buy and you’ll see similar patterns. We may buy a certain brand of clothes in high school for social acceptance. In the longer term, it’s no longer about social acceptance (though that still plays a part in the clothes you buy); often you will buy Polo t-shirts because of the perceived value and the self esteem you garner from the purchase. Are the t-shirts better? Debatable. Is the self esteem boosted? Without a doubt, but it’s temporary and not a true self esteem. Real self esteem stems from achievement and understanding yourself. This is how brands built themselves into the large companies they are today.

It is incredibly easy to fall into the trap of buying products and services to attempt to boost self esteem. It’s a large waste in the long run. Since college, I have bought so much stuff searching for happiness. It wasn’t a premeditated strategy; it’s the power of marketing, to make you think that buying a new computer, TV, car, wardrobe and whatever else catches your eye will make you happy. A bigger lie has not been told. Material things are just that. The immaterial things are the only real value.

Now the really important step. Consumers today are actually going beyond self esteem in terms of purchasing products! They are projecting self actualization into the things they purchase similarly to the way the other steps of the pyramid. It’s interesting to see. And it’s a natural evolution. The most pertinent example is the green movement. Self actualization is based around a holistic understanding of why we are here, purpose, personal development and understanding. Consumers are now searching for products that add value to their lives while simultaneously helping the environment. Additional examples are purchasing products and services based on their utility toward a personal philosophy, way of life or as a way to emphasize their ideological perspective.

In the next post on this, I’ll try to address how this happened.

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