Aside from relatively minor or temporary issues (such as losing a job), the majority of consumers are relatively satisfied with their basic needs (shelter, nutrition, health, safety, etc.) thanks to the high standard of living in most developed markets.
Therefore, the majority of your potential customers are preoccupied with the three “higher needs”:
- Affiliation: At both an individual level (friendship, romance, sexuality, family) and group level (teams, communities, parties, “tribes”), we long for the company of others and work hard to avoid feelings of loneliness and alienation. The need for affiliation can manifest itself in everything from gang membership to sports fandom, but it’s an undeniable part of what makes us human.
- Aspiration: Both externally (status, recognition, fame, prestige, and attention) and internally (strength, competence, mastery, and independence), we all want to be respected by others and confident about ourselves. We seek validation for our contributions through recognition and want to feel like we’re providing value to the world.
- Identity: The desire to discover and become our true selves is the ultimate goal of the human experience, but it’s difficult to achieve. This is the “self-actualization” made famous in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s the desire to accomplish the goals we’re uniquely capable of and become even more “ourselves.” This pursuit may be different for everyone but can include elements of creativity, vitality, playfulness, authenticity, self-sufficiency, meaningfulness, etc.
These three higher needs are the basis of consumer motivation, and should be the foundation for both brand-level and campaign-level thinking.