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How is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs applied to advertising?

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In advertising, your most basic needs are preyed upon by those desiring to sell products.  Why?  They know that you will act upon those needs being met first and foremost before all others.

The most basic needs are physiological: food, shelter, clothing. You will see ads for baby food and baby products that focus on these needs aimed at parents. Also, many commercials on the kid networks focus on food items. So advertisers focus their timing and programming around who is watching at a given time of day by using the Maslow pyramid of needs.

Next in the hierarchy of needs comes safety: Who is concerned about safety?  Drivers, parents, and consumers of all sorts will have various levels of safety needs.  I have noticed lately that many legal ads are focused on drug safety class action suits. These ads appear during the evening news or on late night TV.  Who is watching at these times?  How might these ads appeal to their safety concerns or issues?

The third item on the hierarchy of needs is love and belonging:  Who doesn't want to be in the popular group, have a lover, or have friends. Mouthwash, toothpaste, body care products of all sorts appeal to this need level. If you just use this deodorant, you will attract the most desirable mate.  Your toothpaste will make your teeth whiter and thereby attract the most desirable mate. Drinking a particular beer or soda will make you the most popular person at the party. Etc...

Fourth and Fifth are hardest to target by advertisers on TV: These are the higher order needs and tend to be met only when the most basic needs are under control. The military ads tend to appeal to these needs as do college ads.  You might also notice that investment firms that offer trades on the stock market appeal to these needs.

In advertising, the most important element in your ad is the audience and their compelling reason to purchase a particular product over another product that offers the same service or meets the same need.  What emotional appeals are put out there for consumers during advertising? What need levels do these emotional appeals prey upon?


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Advertisers (whether purposely or not) make use of Maslow's hierarchy of needs when designing their advertisements.  They try to craft ads that will convince people that a given product will fulfill various levels of the needs that people feel.

For example, many auto ads play on people's need for safety.  You will often see ads where a driver is able to avoid all sorts of dangers (perhaps with his or her children in the car) due to the car's safety features.

As another example, beer ads tend to play to people's esteem needs.  They tell people that drinking this particular type of beer will cause them to be seen in a more positive light by their peers (in other words, they'll look cool).  These ads also appeal to people's love and belonging needs.

It is important for ads to say that their product will fulfill people's needs.  Because of this, they tend to try to claim that they will take care of various of Maslow's levels of needs.

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