Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs and advertisement

From my research into the psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (illustration below) I have learnt that consumers will often buy products they desire before those that they need.

Companies and advertising agencies profit from this, making consumers believe that the non-essential products they sell are essential to the consumers needs. They often do this by picking out a unique selling point of a product and suggesting to the audience that that particular aspect is essential to their needs in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy. For example, an alarm company suggesting that their product will protect the buyers family and possessions. While it may offer some protection, it is not generally an essential product and it it will not offer 100% protection from burglary or intruders. Thus the consumer, in all likelihood probably does not NEED to purchase the alarm, but will do so anyway if they believe it is going to protect their family/belongings.

I’ve found some advertisements which I think have incorporated this technique into their pitch. Below I will provide the print advertisements and stills alongside my reasoning and links to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

ADT alarm systems
‘What matters most’
source –

This television advertisement depicts four people from different backgrounds (family man, middle-aged woman living alone, career woman and a very comfortable looking well travelled young gentleman who wants to protect his gap year memories – he obviously hasn’t heard of backing up files). They all want something different from their alarm and ADT have covered lots of ground in terms of target audience, showing us how versatile and useful their product it. They are appealing to stage two of Maslow’s hierarchy – safety. By suggesting all the uses for their product they have incorporated the consumers need to feel and be safe and protect their property, family and business, hinting that their alarm is essential to our need for safety. However, in reality the product is not generally essential.

‘The AGA Season’
October 2009
Ogilvy Advertising
source –

This print advertisement appeals to stage four of Maslow’s hierarchy – esteem. This brand is synonymous with country life, the ideal family living in the countryside with lovely views and possibly a labrador or spaniel and of course, an AGA. For their Christmas ad campaign they’ve played on this, pointing out their unique selling point – lifestyle.

The advertisement itself has nothing to do with their actual product, instead it highlights the ideal lifestyle – a white Christmas with ones family and all because one bought an AGA. By buying their product one can access this lifestyle. There is also a suggestion of the need to ‘belong’, the image of a young child enjoying the snow gives the audience a suggestion of family and their product can provide that ‘togetherness’.

Cow & Gate
Follow-on milk
July 2009
source –

This print advert depicts a young, healthy child alongside the advertised product showing his defence moves (note the visual metaphor between the slogan and the child’s action – self defence).

The advert appeals to the need for safety, or more precisely, the health and wellbeing of family (in this case young children) on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It suggests that if you buy this product for your child as a supplement to their diet that their health and immune system will benefit more than if they were to relying on an alternative source i.e. cows milk. This particular advertisement was actually banned by the advertising watchdog for misleading consumers and lack of evidence to support the claims they made.

D’Arcy Agency
sources –
Creative Review December 2011

This is one of Coca-Cola’s most iconic adverts. The illustration of a bikini clad girl apparently accepting a bottle of coke from a male captured the mood and possibilities of post war America. But it has an obvious sexual undertone, hinting at the possibility of what else the girl may be saying yes to, suggesting that buying this product could provide the consumer with more than just a drink, but a lifestyle too (one which before 1946 would not have been possible).

It appeals to our need to belong, buying Coca-Cola will help you fit in, bring you friendship, make you more attractive etc. We don’t actually need this product, but the advertisement helps us think that if we do buy it then we could be like the people it depicts.

Dettol No Touch Handwash System
source –

This 30 second television advertisement depicts a family (parents and the children) going about their ‘germy’ business, picking up frogs and raw chicken and such. It then provides the audience with a few facts on how soap pumps harbour bacteria. It then goes on to suggest that this is bad for us (although it does not acknowledge the fact that said bacteria will be killed and washed away once said soap comes into contact with the hand which is already covered in bacteria).

The advert appeals to the second stage of Maslow’s hierarchy – safety and the need to protect ourselves and our families health. The advertisers have in a way created a problem which did not exist (if one is to wash their hands then those hands are likely to be covered in bacteria already and whats more the soap will kill the bacteria anyway), but they are suggesting to the consumer that by buying this product you can protect your families health and wellbeing by reducing (minimally) their exposure to bacteria.

I read a good article about this on The Guardian’s website
Fate and Cupid
Hanft Raboy & Partner
source –

This print advert is one the 5 in a series of advertisement from 2008 which ran alongside several television commercials with the same characters. The ads carry the same message and theme – find love on within 6 months or your money back. But their main pull is why wait for love when you can join their site and find it yourself. This appeals to our need to belong and have friendship and intimacy. The advertisements suggest that you will find love  using their site, and that the only other alternative is to wait, thus, if you purchase this product [membership] you will reach stage three of the hierarchy of needs – ‘belonging’.

Tagged , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: