The needs that motivate and influence people are universal, spanning cultures and generations. No matter what age, nationality, or background, people are driven by essentially the same set of core needs.
The top three emotional needs that drive human behavior are relatedness, autonomy, and competence. People want to be connected to others while maintaining their individuality, and they want to feel that they are able to have some control over what happens.
The three emotional needs converge in the top core need that drives people’s behavior and thinking: self-esteem. These top three emotional needs reveal a fundamental tension between two opposite emotions: the need to be independent and competent, and the need to be connected to others.
All emotional needs exist on a continuum that connects the two opposite emotions of individuality and connectedness. On this continuum between individuality and connectedness are the following six core emotional needs: control, self-expression, growth, recognition, belonging, and care. Depending on their placement on the continuum, individuality
has more influence in some needs, while connectedness is more prevalent in others. Every need, however, will have some element of both.
The Needs Continuum
Control Self Expression Recognition Belonging Care
Emotional needs are not items to be checked off a list. People don’t achieve one need, cross it off, and move to the next need. This is the fundamental flaw of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Throughout life, people are constantly moving among different needs. When approaching customers or prospects, a business must understand which of the six core needs its product or service addresses, and then tailor its marketing to best address that core need.
Mark Ingwer PhD is a consumer psychologist and the managing partner of Insight Consulting Group, a global healthcare marketing and strategy consultancy specializing in market research and consumer insights. He has over 25 years of experience applying his unique blend of psychology, marketing, and healthcare industry acumen to helping companies optimize their brand and marketing strategy based on an in-depth understanding of their customers. He is the author of the book “Empathetic Marketing" published by Palgrave in May 2012.
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