Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology, proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation.Maslow subsequently extended the idea to include his observations of humans’ innate curiosity. His theories parallel many other theories of human developmental psychology, all of which focus on describing the stages of growth in humans. Some criticisms of Maslow’s pyramid as being ethnocentric may stem from the fact that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs neglects to illustrate and expand upon the difference between the social and intellectual needs of those raised in individualistic societies and those raised in collectivist societies. However there are things that to learn from his pyramid. It has some very good logic in it. And it can help you with getting more sales of your product(s).

Imagine walking though a large grocery store and they did whatever they could to make sure you buy… You smell, for instance, that delicous spaghetti that is prepared in the vegetable section, with fresh brocolli and tomatoes… Smells so great. Normally you would run over and taste it and be persuaded in buying all the ingredients that conviently are already packed for you in one bag at a special price…. However not this time. And that’s because you really, really, really have to go to the toilet. All that coffee that you had this morning has the need to go out of your body right here and now. But toilets are something weird in supermarkets here…. They did their best to hide them for you, and if you want to use it you have to pay 50 cents cash… No money no pee…… It’s like ‘we don’t want you to feel relaxed and happy so that you can spend more money, but we just want your money’…. From a business point of view that might be right. But please take a look at the other side for a change.

Or imagine being at a museum and they conveniently placed their restaurant at the entrance. In the whole museum there aren’t any more restaurants, just some vending machines. So you enter and you see the restaurant and you think…. ‘not yet, i just arrived’. You go into the museum. You get a bit thursty and then you see a vending machine. It’s not what you want but it sure as hell is better than walking all the way back to the restaurant. So you buy a coke from the machine. You continue and you end up again at the entrance. You saw the whole museum, and you already had your drinks so you don’t feel the need to go to that restaurant and you just leave. Imagine in that same museum there’s a souvenir shop halfway the exhibition. I have been to museums where that’s the case. But halfway through the exhibition you don’t have any need yet for souvenirs. Maybe you check inside but you will most likely decide to buy stuff later. Except there will not be a later because you will not return to this place in the museum, unless you deliberatly go back for that shop. Imagine that in this museum they would switch the shop and the restaurant. Halfway the exhibition you get your chance to buy a coffee and something to eat with it. And after you saw the whole exhibition you walk past that shop and you decide that it’s now or never so you get in and buy something to remember your visit. Most museums and exhibitions I have been have very deliberatly chosen to keep the exhibitions itself apart from the money part, the shops and restaurants. And most of the time these shops and restaurants are found on the most unlogical places, because the exhibition itself got all the best places for being the most important thing.

Maslow created the infamous Hierarchy of Needs, a pyramid depicting the levels of human needs, psychological and physical. When a human being ascends the steps of the pyramid he reaches self actualization. At the bottom of the pyramid are the “Basic needs or Physiological needs” of a human being, food and water and sex. The next level is “Safety Needs: Security, Order, and Stability.” These two steps are important to the physical survival of the person. Once individuals have basic nutrition, shelter and safety, they attempt to accomplish more. The third level of need is “Love and Belonging,” which are psychological needs; when individuals have taken care of themselves physically, they are ready to share themselves with others. The fourth level is achieved when individuals feel comfortable with what they have accomplished. This is the “Esteem” level, the level of success and status (from self and others). The top of the pyramid, “Need for Self-actualization,” occurs when individuals reach a state of harmony and understanding. (The Developing Person through the Life Span, (1983) pg. 44).Once a person has reached the self actualization state they focus on themselves and try to build their own image. They may look at this in terms of feelings such as self confidence or by accomplishing a set goal.

Ever thought about how it’s odd that in developed economies, typically less than 5% of GDP is represented by agriculture? This model explains that — how an economy segments its growth depends on where on the hierarchy the bulk of its populace lies. If everybody is well-fed and safe, and the local religion is taking care of love/belonging and esteem/respect relatively well, chances are, the next billion dollars of growth in the economy will be around things like education or lifestyle. Partly explains why Facebook was valued at more than Ford, doesn’t it? Now you know why apparently frivolous stuff like cosmetics can end up being bigger product markets than more “fundamental” things.

Of course, some products span the spectrum. A Big Mac is mostly a bottom-tier product, but a classy heirloom-tomato caprese salad at your local-and-organic neighborhood bistro is mostly selling self-actualization. Prostitution may have been the oldest profession, but pornography didn’t explode in market size until the Internet became available. So evolution along the Maslow hierarchy is not reflected precisely in market structure — technology determines when the market will properly reflect certain needs (i.e. when the market can actually deliver to that need).

When you buy a house, you will not do so in a reflex. It will take some days to arrange everything and sign all the papers. So in that case Maslow will not have that much influence. But what happens when you buy a house or a car? You get coffee, you are taken to a private (safe) place….. They help you fill up all the needs that are lower in the pyramid. Not that they always do that deliberatly, but it’s just how life is.  It also means that if you have something like a bookstore and there is not a place in your area selling drinks and some food, your profits of bookselling will increase a lot after you opened up a small corner where everyone can buy a drink. To go or to sip up in one of the chairs, with a view on all your best selling books….

But what if your product is a book? What if it is a book about cooking? Wouldn’t a grocery store be a much better place to sell than a bookstore? There are a zillion internet cafe’s. But I have yet to see one where you can print the pages you are visiting. Where you could gather information for your school project, gather it in a document, and have that printed for you. Where there’s pen and paper for you to grab when you have the need to make some notes. Maybe write down the name of a website….

You really can increase your sales when you sit down for a minute and think about what mindset people are in or have to be in, in order to buy your product…..