Human Needs for Stronger Global Brands

In 1943 Maslow defined the five basic human needs of physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualisation.

All brands, products and services are designed to satisfy their target’s needs and desires, so Maslow’s hierarchy seems a good framework to use, when defining on what your offer will be based. If this interests you, and it should if your business is global or geographically spread as I explain below, then here are the steps: 

1. Satisfying: identify which of the five needs your br and or service is looking to fulfill. Sometimes brands in the same category can even play to different needs, at least in terms of their communications.

Keep in mind that the lower needs must be satisfied before higher needs can be addressed, so there is no point in speaking about status alone to customers who are still looking to provide a safe environment for their family to live in.

2. Resonating: communicating to your target audience by referring to their relevant needs will obviously resonate more quickly and easily with them. This of course means that you already have taken the trouble to deeply understand them, their rational needs and emotional desires.

Some good examples that I have seen in recent years are detailed below:

  • Knorr’s packet soup in the UK, based on needs of food, safety and love.  See video
  • Nestlé’s Baby food in Chile, based on food, safety and love. See video
  • Omo washing powder, one from a long series entitled “Dirt is good”, based on safety and love. See video
  • Marlboro cigarettes used a cowboy in their campaigns for years, as he was associated with security, belonging and self-confidence
  • Peugeot car, based on self-esteem and status: See video
  • UK back seat safety belt buckle-up campaign, based on safety. Warning, the ending is violent; not for the faint hearted! See video

Do you have any other examples representing identified human needs? If so please share them in the comments below.

3. Going Global: another advantage of using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to position your brand / service, is that they are felt by all human beings. These communication ideas are often referred to as “Human truths”. They help by improving the likely success of a  roll out regionally or globally, compared to basing communications on local specificities alone. The examples above, although mentioned as being from certain markets, actually became successful regional or global campaigns.


To guarantee satisfaction, your customers need to feel that you really care about them, truly underst and their needs and that your offer resonates with them. If you are successful in doing this, then your communications will be understood without any work on their side; it will be obvious to them what you are talking about and they will be able to simply identify themselves with what is being shown.

Do you have a question or challenge about uncovering the most relevant human truths for your own brands? I am sure I can help; just contact me here  and I’ll respond personally.

For more ideas on connecting with your customers:

This post was first published on C3Centricity Comments page on September 8th 2011

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