Friday, October 8, 2010

Maslow and Marketing

This blog was generated in response to a blog by Alison Macleod ( in which she noted that a UK based organisation was using Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to divide the UK population based on their values (I assume as drawn from Maslow's work).

I partially concur with the views expressed by Alison regarding simplistic use of Maslow's work. However I do not agree with the following comments:

 "there’s really no evidence for his hierarchy.  Yes, it’s a useful sketch of motivation, and a very pretty pyramid, but there is no evidence that you can account for real people’s behaviour by invoking any part of it apart from the part about people requiring food and water."

If one were to view the pyramid in isolation as most do, then it may appear simplistic. It is very easy to dismiss images like this as "pretty pyramids" but in reality there is a deep basis for this work. If one is to take a position on this particular image, then there is a lot of reading to do. Maslow arrived at this representation of a portion of his work following long and deep research and the collection of large amounts of data.

If we are to to understand the image then we need to read the surrounding body of work. And then follow the reference sources. Such a journey will lead the individual to read Jung and Frankl (he notes the triumph of the human spirit even through the miseries of his own experience of Dachau)  and Freud, then through a journey of human thinking which will incorporate the thoughts of the Buddha and Christ  and many other thinkers. One would journey through the legend of the grail and many other great legends which conveyed human aspiration.

The work of Maslow tried to capture the essence of the human aspiration for something higher. The pyramid was a small part of that work. Marketers and motivators who use the pyramid to support things like dividing humans up into value driven sets are using the tool in a way for which it was never intended to be used.

But then that would assume that marketers and motivators actually have the motivation to read more than what is on wikipedia.

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