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Part II

As we continue the journey to the peak of the pyramid, I think it’s also important to look at where we came from. What are some of the things that we – businesses and brands – have been doing? Things that work, things that don’t work. It’s especially important as we seek the real nugget, getting to what businesses are so desperately seeking these days: genuine advocacy.

To quickly define our elusive brand advocates: they are those people who actively influence (or, at least, attempt to) others who are looking – and sometimes, not looking – for whatever it is your brand offers. We can discuss the value of a brand advocate in terms of profit in a later post but for now, allow me to direct you to this post by Edelman Digital.

Now, back to our climb of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Assuming that Maslow was right, and that in 1943 the only way to apply his theory was to look at it as a hierarchy where one motivational need must be completely satisfied before focusing on the next, then the explanation for discounting is clear.


Focus on the Safety need:

We will all recognize the notion of discounting, couponing, BOGO (buy-one-get-one). These types of promotions work wonders drawing in a crowd. We are living through an economic crisis and there is proof after proof that couponing is alive and well! In fact, according to NCH Marketing, in 2011, American consumers received over $4.6 billion in savings in 2011 – and that trend was up by $500 million over the year before. This works; this drives business; and gosh darn it, people like this!

But, there’s an issue with this method of reaching and drawing in an audience. First, competing on price in any industry will only drive revenues down to everyone’s detriment independent of the fact that costs are going up. Not good. Secondly, from a consumer standpoint, when businesses compete on price – the wallet wins but a few things happen:

  1. I always look for the cheapest price first. So, I have no loyalty to you unless you continue to be the lowest priced widget seller in my region.
  2. I am unlikely to get good service because in order for businesses to cut costs as they drive prices downward, compensation is likely affected in turn affecting employee motivation and service levels.
  3. I am likely to be selecting a product that very well could negatively impact my local economy (in turn affecting my community) as businesses seek out cost cutting methods to support their low price efforts.

Based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, promotions are focusing on the 2nd lowest rung – Security. There is no doubt that in our economic climate, this is an important factor to pay attention to, but let’s be clear: Security does not drive loyalty or advocacy.

Are you looking long term? Are you considering the consumer of tomorrow? And, more importantly, what are you doing as a business to ensure that you are building genuine advocacy built on sustainability, value sharing, and relevancy?

Your consumers are people. Your employees are people. Chances are these people need more than to be stuck on the bottom rung of some psychological metaphor for a pyramid, wouldn’t you agree?

The true marketing revolution will elevate the role of the business from making money to satisfying consumer needs and desires to making genuine contributions in their communities (local, national and global).

Part III considers the way marketing continues to evolve and personifies brands.