Marketing Q & A
Marketing Q&A
By Al Jabaly

Al Jabaly is a certified marketing and business consultant with over 20 years of small business experience. Email your questions to All questions will be answered via e-mail. Some of the most interesting questions will be posted in this weekly column. For further information, Al can be reached at 1-888-899-3190


Why people buy a product is a complicated matter. People generally buy for two main reasons: to solve a problem AND to make themselves feel good! Psychologists and sociologists have made extensive studies to understand why people buy. The famous psychologist Abraham Maslow stated that people are animals who continually want and that they constantly struggle upward to reach higher levels of needs. He classified these needs into the FIVE LEVELS OF HUMAN NEEDS. He charted these levels of needs on a pyramid graph, with need level #1 starting at the bottom of the pyramid to need level #5 at the top of the pyramid. Here are Mr. Maslow’s 5 levels of needs:

LEVEL #1: is the lowest and most powerful need. This covers basic needs, as hunger, thirst, sex, air, and rest. Take the example of a homeless person. The most important need for him or her is survival: to find a warm place to spend the night and food for nourishment. This person, at this stage, is not interested in, or capable of, buying anything else due to lack of money.

LEVEL #2: after satisfying the survival needs, the human being seeks to satisfy the next level, the safety and security needs. These include shelter, clothing, protection, etc. It covers getting a good job with a pension, life insurance, burglar alarm for the house or office, learning how to defend themselves (martial arts), etc. Going back to the example of the homeless person: the first thing this person would look for, to get out of this dire homelessness situation, is to look for any menial job and a better place to sleep in than on the streets.

LEVEL #3: After satisfying the need for survival (1st level), safety and security (2nd level), human beings seeks to satisfy love and belonging which constitute the 3rd level. Here they seek acceptance, friendship, love, and the need to start a family. Going back to the homeless person, now that he/she has a steady entry level job, a place to spend the night, he/she now wants to get back into society by seeking one or two good friends and getting acceptance by other people as an equal member of the human race, not just receiving their pity and meager donations!

LEVEL #4: Now that the person is married and has a secure job and pension, he/she now seeks the 4th level of need: esteem needs. This includes recognition, respect, achievement, prestige, appreciation, etc. Our homeless person now seeks a better job, a larger place to live in, change of wardrobe, etc.

Our human being now has just about everything he or she wants: a job, income, security (401K, money in the bank, etc), a nice large home, a late model car, a loving family, good reputation in the community, membership in country clubs, associations, etc. One last level of needs still eludes our human and still seeks the last level of need.

LEVEL #5: the ultimate (highest) level of need is, as described by Mr. Maslow, is the need for self-actualization. It is the ultimate goal that we all seek during our entire lives. It is the need of humans to make the most of their abilities and to aim for the best they can be and do.

A business, in advertising to promote its product or service, should attempt to present an appeal strong enough to stimulate an action by the prospect to satisfy one of the above needs. A burglar alarm company should appeal to the need of safety and security (level #2). A country and golf club appeals to the esteem need (level #4), and so on. You should note that LOWER levels (#1 and 2, for example) always take priority over HIGHER levels (#4 and 5). If you can cater to your market in just the right way, you really can get them to buy expensive cars when they cannot afford them!