Brand Strategy in a Web 2.0 World


Jennifer Rice at Brand Mantra has an excellent series of posts on Maslow and Branding. She’s looked at 8 core consumer needs: Security, Connection, Esteem, Control, Aesthetic, Cognitive, Self-Actualization and Transcendence. She starts the series with this ….

“Remember back in your Psych 101 class when you learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Bet you never expected to see it again in the business world, but…ta da! Here it is. Personally I think a few are missing like freedom and control. But in general, we can easily see how strong brands relate back to the hierarchy. In the next couple posts, I’ll walk through the expanded hierarchy (8 needs instead of 5) and discuss their relation to brand strategy.”

For the uninitiated, an explanation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I’ve culled out, from Jennifer’s multiple posts, some of the key points and examples that she makes – they are in italics:

on Security:

“This is the “No one ever got fired for buying IBM” syndrome. There are people everywhere who will only purchase products and services from companies that have proven themselves over time. They stuck with SBC when their more adventurous counterparts were fleeing to try one of the new competitive phone companies.”

on Connection:

“We’re seeing this era of fragmentation come to a close, and the locus of connection is reforming on two very different levels: the physical world where brands like Starbuck’s are providing modern tribal gathering spots, and the virtual world where like-minded people can connect based on affinity instead of geography (like Slashdot.) As with trust, all brands can work on facilitating a sense of connection through blogs and forums. But newer brands that are plugged into the grassroots economy are making ‘connection’ a foundational differentiator for their brands. I’ll end up revisiting social technologies and grassroots economy after going though the entire hierarchy, because the virtual locus of connection is actually the point at which 4 different needs intersect.”

on Esteem:

“Some newer ways of delivering Esteem include: “New Economy” forums like LegoFactory. Not only is this a place to show off your new Lego designs to other community members, but you also get a chance to be publicly recognized for a great design by the Lego Product Designers themselves. Another example is Slashdot, where you earn karma for smart participation in the forums. You can see in the FAQs that people’s karma scores serve as ‘reputation badges,’ and it appears that some folks were a bit peeved when the karma indicator was changed from a potentially unlimited number to a label ( Terrible, Bad, Neutral, Positive, Good, and Excellent.)”

on Control:

“Control is tightly linked to the notion of freedom; without freedom we have no ability to control our environment. Control and Freedom are two sides of the same coin, a linkage that has surfaced in primary research for several different technology and B2B clients. Features like flexibility and customization relate back to Control, but so do social technologies like blogs, forums, user ratings, etc. The emerging grassroots economy is pushing both Freedom and Control into the hands of employees and customers… forming a vast, distributed human network where each node (individual) can connect, communicate, make choices, learn from each other, grow. In essence this new economy is enabling and empowering us to live and work the way we want, not how someone else tells us we must.”

on Aesthetic:

“Aesthetic used to be a nice-to-have, but it’s increasingly becoming foundational. Witness the explosive success of Apple and the iPod, or the gotta-have Razr phone. Target is bringing designer style (Isaac, Oldham) to the masses, along with InStyle magazine and “The Look for Less” show. Starbucks combined coffee with an aesthetic environment. Barnes & Noble did the same for books. There are now 250 bathroom faucets from which to choose. Style is important because it’s an external representation of our own self-image. What we wear, drive, carry… they’re all badges to demonstrate who we are. It makes me wonder if Aesthetic really is the core need; perhaps it’ something much more basic, like ‘validation of self-existence.’ Perhaps style is our subconscious way of defining who we are, or attracting a mate (like peacocks and bird plumage).”

on Cognitive:

“This is about learning and understanding the world around us. While many people still blindly accept the doctrines of traditional authority (church, state, corporations, media, etc.), others are taking control, asking questions and seeking answers. Brands that knock down barriers to knowledge and provide easy access are delivering on this need. These aren’t just the obvious brands like Google; they’re also brands that practice transparency and educate customers on the how’s and why’s of their products, services and business practices. Transparency and openness deliver on customers’ desire to know. FedEx tracking is a great example (of both Cognitive and Control). And of course, blogs and forums fit into this category as well.”

on Self-Actualization:

“Nike pioneered the focus on self-actualization with their famous “Just Do It” tag line. Home Depot followed suit with “You can do it. We can help.” Brands that demonstrate a belief in their customers’ abilities will win the hearts and minds of those who want to reach higher and accomplish more. But it needs to be more than just talk or a nice tag line. Microsoft’s campaign, “Where do you want to go today?” appeals to this need, but I haven’t found a lot of supporting evidence for the promise (of course, I haven’t looked very hard.). How about creating more interactivity with customers, learning where they want to go, offering online education classes, or perhaps social networking tools that connect mentors with learners?”

on Transcendence:

“This need is about giving back, enriching others or championing a greater cause. The Body Shop was founded on core values like environmental protection; their web site reminds visitors, “Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, that’s the only thing that ever does.” The Toyota Prius won Edmund’s Consumer’s Choice for Most Significant Vehicle in 2004. Cause-related brands have strong appeal to small but loyal customer segments.”

There is so much potential for social tools and technologies to address so many of these needs – the needs for Esteem, Connection, Self-Actualization, Cognition, Control . Am looking forward to reading Jennifer’s thoughts on how they interact. It would require a cultural change in organizations to acknowledge that some of the more powerful human needs, or in marketing terms, customer drivers, lie in the value of actually passing on the control and freedom to customers. Tied into this need are the needs for connection, esteem, cognitiion, self-actualization and ultimately, transcendence.

Web 2.0 companies have shown the way – their products are in perpetual beta, their architecture and marketing is decentralized, they encourage communities of users to self-organize around them. Recently, in an email to Rob, I wrote …. I think one of the most difficult things for people to do is give up control and relinquish ‘power’ to the many unless they see tangible ‘cost-per-click’ sort of gains. It’s the single largest barrier to accepting and adopting a process that is different to one we have been so conditioned to. Sadly, what few realise the act of giving up that power itself can be so empowering for them – why is WordPress gaining popularity – why is Flickr so popular – why are and Skype and so many others gaining traction today? They weren’t built in a day and pushed onto us as a final product or service – they are being built by and around the community that breathes them. The folks behind them had the guts and vision to say – let’s see how our customers ‘play’ – how they self-organize into networks (developers for instance) – embrace the criticisms with the accolades – and build around what they build. Chaos ….. and creativity. So powerful.

cross posted from here