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An Overview of Needs Theories behind Consumerism

Ward, David and Lasen, Marta (2009): An Overview of Needs Theories behind Consumerism.

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Wynn and Coolidge [2004] have hypothesized that one of the key reasons why the Homo Sapiens progressed to being modern man while the Neanderthal man didn’t, is that the former developed through innovation (from artefacts to advanced hunting methods) while the latter has left no trace of such evolution. Almost as if the Neanderthal man did not see the need to progress and accepted circumstances as fact. If this is true then the Homo Sapiens have not only developed psychological and objective needs but have progressively updated them as well. Maslow put it beautifully by saying “You will either step forward into growth, or you will step backward into safety”. This paper is the first part of a two part series. Here we provide an overview of needs theories and discuss them in the context of consumerism, consumption and opportunities for enterprises. In part two, needs and opportunities are linked to markets, benefits and strategies through a specific 3D model based on Maslow’s pyramid. To pave the way for this approach we also promote a model (PIE-Persons, Institutions and Enterprises) with the intent to help enterprises view consumers, institutions and their organisation as one interweaved entity. Needs theories are known to be crucial behind much of the understanding of human behaviour and in particular in the workplace and by the consumer. This paper examines the development of hierarchical needs theory from Maslow to Gough with the intent to better identify consumer needs, provide examples of current and past business opportunities and macroscopically show the progression from red to blue ocean strategies . The authors provide an overview of needs theories seeded through motivational theory also with the aim to uncover the differences in having (sometimes known as deficit needs) and being needs (sometimes known as growth needs) and then subsequently link them to enterprise strategies, improved consumer understanding and better market exploitation.

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