You may not realize it, but every action we take is based on some core need we have. As coined by Dr. Abraham Maslow in the 1940s, the “Hierarchy of Needs” is a pyramid-shaped representation starting with the most basic of needs and ending with more self-actualization interests.
You may have even heard of “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” but never really understood how it applied to anything beyond education. The truth is it’s a great driving force in copywriting.
To effectively apply the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs concept in your copy you must know what’s the basic motivator of your target audience; is it based on physiological needs, safety needs, the need for love and belonging, esteem needs or the need to achieve self-actualization.
Maslow’s theory states that once you’ve meet a set of needs you will move up to the next, so for example once all your physiological needs are met your safety needs take over and dominate your mind.
The physiological needs, like breathing, food and water, are our survival instincts. If these aren’t met, eventually we, and our species, die.
But once we’ve managed to get our basic needs taken care of we then strive to reach our…
These are the things that keep us up at night: our health, our family, our work. Copywriting with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in mind speaks to our most powerful activator – safety.
These people don’t have time to read long sales letters – they need checklists, bullet points and strong, convincing testimonials that show the end result.
There’s an immediate threat to their safety and well being and no amount of fluff or filler is going to convince them.
The Need for Love and Belonging
The next step up the pyramid is love and belonging. Look at any magazine especially geared toward men, women or the home and you can see all kinds of prominent copy drivers.
Images motivate these people to act, the picture of a happy family sitting around the table laughing or the exquisitely decorated home or the comfort of a loving marriage. Use these images to reinforce your copy if love and belonging are high on your prospects needs list.
Building Self Esteem
Esteem is the next motivator and it’s all about what “could be”.
Achievement figures in here, so images and phrases that tie in with success will do well to speak to this audience. Fancy cars, gorgeous homes, wealth and tropical destinations are common, as are statements that attest to something so rare and refined, that not everyone can have it.
Achieving Self Actualization
This is the final motivator, and the one we strive for when everything else is met.
All types of self-help related books flourish in this market. Happiness, creativity, beauty and other self-needs need to be met here. Likewise, beautiful images such as before and after shots, natural beauty, incredible smiles and other motivators are what encourage people to act at this level.
Learning more about psychological needs and understanding the triggers that help get the sale are definitely worthwhile for any copywriting student. Just be sure that in learning what makes people “tick” that you use it ethically and intelligently.
Please give your opinion on this or share your own copywriting strategies by leaving a comment below.