Mixed Signals: Staged Brand Experiences or Building Blocks for Belonging?

You remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs—it prescribes the building blocks individuals need to achieve something dubbed self actualization. In order to work toward the pinnacle, our physiological, personal safety, love and belonging, and self esteem needs must be met, respectively. Then we arrive at some idealistic state of personhood, which no one has ever experienced but supposedly exists.

Marketing specialists keep these psychological goals in mind to develop strategic messages that impact buyer behavior. For example, fear appeals stimulate our need for personal safety, and beauty products entice us to build our self esteem.

A recent article at Social Media Today proposes that our strong need for love and belonging drive the majority of our behavior, purchase or otherwise. The onset of social media reinforces our belonging as we are able to share our experiences and solidify our place with others. Columnist Nick Bennett explains:

We spend our lives in groups, clubs, teams and circles. The basic need is the belonging and it is a critical driver of love. Knowing you are part of something with others, being able to share that and interact has been amplified by social media.

What does this mean for marketing strategy? Astute marketers looking to boost brand loyalty (love) will capitalize on our desire to belong by creating scenarios that people will be prompted to share via social media. Bennett continues:

If you want to build the love and loyalty for your brand, think about what people need in social and that concept of ‘belonging’. It can change the way you approach a strategy and lead to a community that builds love and loyalty based on that essential human need… To belong.

As a marketer, I find this approach wise—it’s a matter of seeing what motivate people to be engaged, then acting upon it. As a person, I find this to be rather synthetic—we enter into staged scenarios because we are so very desperate to belong, which seems rather sad.

Brand experiences can be entertaining and relationship building—see DuckTape, for example. But we ask too much of brands and products if we expect them to meet our need for love and belonging.  God wired us for community, with Him and with others. We may get some of our people-needs filled by participating in these brand-centric experiences, but the transcendent isn’t found in a man-made product even when it’s brought to you via inspiring and memorable experiences.

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