6# UX COPYWRITING: The pyramid of Maslow and Kendrick

To continue delving into the needs of the reader-client, I want to talk to you about Maslow’s pyramid, a psychological theory that hierarchically orders human needs.

Abraham Maslow proposed it in 19439 and it is a classic for advertisers and marketing experts, although as you will see below, some are opting for new models.

According to Maslow, as we satisfy our most basic needs, such as food or rest, we can develop higher needs until we reach complete self-realization.

These are the needs from the base of the Maslow’s pyramid:

  • Level 1. Basic needs
  • Level 2. Security needs
  • Level 3. Social needs
  • Level 4. Recognition needs
  • Level 5. Self-realization

One of the exercises that I have shared in my school and in networks Social is to link your product or service to a main need (and if you need it, a secondary one). That helps us to focus once again on the customer’s needs, not just the benefits of what we sell.

As we’ve already seen, linking a product to a need triggers the unconscious mind to kick in, but sometimes we stay in the shallower layers and don’t see that buying the latest Samsung or iPhone model has more to do with the need to belong and status than with its infinite megapixel camera or its large capacity.

For example, in Spain we have the commercial claim of “back to school”, the return to schools after the summer holidays. Hundreds of businesses send the same message for parents to buy backpacks, stationery, clothing and other related products for their children.

Chances are, most of those kids won’t need a new backpack or pencil case to store their pencils. Even so, Spanish fathers and mothers spend an average of 250-400 euros in satisfying their… needs? Whose? From children or from parents?

Analyze what is behind this type of advertising claims:

  1. Back to school. Dress them for success.
  2. How do you want their return to school to be? Get them their best smile.
  3. We have everything you need to start the best course of your life.
  4. Save money and let them choose at the same time.

If I had to summarize them in one sentence, I would not say that they are trying to sell quality school supplies, but that their objective is to make you feel the following: buy and you will be a good father or mother. There is nothing more powerful than that.

In fact, Douglas T. Kenrick, together with his team V. Griskevicius, SL Neuberg and M. Schaller, published a study10 in 2011 on a new pyramid model, based on current innovations in evolutionary psychology.

These are all the levels of the Kenrick’s Pyramid:

Level 1. Basic needs

Level 2. Self-protection

Level 3. Feeling of belonging

Level 4. Respect / Acceptance

Level 5. Get a partner

Level 6. Maintain a partner

Level 7. Parenting

The last Three levels of the pyramid, for purely reproductive purposes, raised more than one blister shouting “What if I don’t want to have children?” or “What if it is not important for me to have a partner?”

But what they wanted with this revision to Maslow’s model was not to impose that hierarchy of needs, but to create a pyramid based on evolutionary biology, anthropology and psychology.

The most basic instinct of all is the survival of the species. And before you say you don’t care and don’t think about it, let me remind you that 95% of your thoughts and decisions are unconscious.

The complaint to the original model occurs because Maslow said that a painter must paint and a writer write, in order to feel full and complete, but the top of the pyramid (self-realization) had nothing to do with biological processes.

This new pyramid can help us understand the consumer from an evolutionary point of view, although a priori it is hard for us to imagine that we buy perfume to attract a partner and not because we like the smell.

In one of my conferences in Barcelona an assistant asked for the microphone in the round of questions. He said: “So you have married your husband to survive, for fear of loneliness and not for love?” I was a little upset and I understood what he wanted to tell me.

When you start to study how decision-making works, you get a kick in the ego. That’s why I like the title of one of Jürgen Klaric’s books so much, Sell ​​to Mind, Not People. In my opinion, not because people don’t know what they want, but because they don’t know WHY they want it. Understanding why brings us closer to the receiver and allows us to create attractive messages. But it is useless for a text to connect and activate a favorable decision towards our product if we put up barriers that hinder the purchase. We will see how to avoid it in the next blog post.

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