Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for Online Marketing

Updated: April 28, 2016
by Ray Alexander

Have you ever heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Today I’d like to talk about the connection between the Maslow’s Hierarchy and online marketing. You may have learned about the theory at the college, and I remember it from my accountancy and business study years ago. It was a theory in psychology by Abraham Maslow, proposed in his paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in 1943.

So there are 5 levels of “needs” from the most basic to the most complex, and you need to fulfil the most basic needs first, in order to gain access to the second level of needs, then to the third level, moving up the pyramid.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

For my accountancy study, the theory was applied to an employee’s motivation. Very junior staff earning very low wages will be motivated by receiving more money. That will meet their physiological needs (level 1). Whereas for managers, monetary rewards are less important. Job security, level of respect and things will become more important. Sounds about right? Or I can hear you say “OK, whatever”?

Think about these “needs” in general, have a look at the 3rd & 4th levels. So you need to fulfil the 3rd level first to gain access to the 4th. So if you lack of good friendship, family or sexual intimacy, you’re not particularly interested in gaining self-esteem, respect of others or respect by others.

“Fulfil” is the keyword here, as I understand. It’s not a subjective matter, whether you appear to have a good friendship or not, but as long as you’re satisfied with your social needs (love/belonging), then you’re motivated by the next level, esteem issues.

Quality of the Pyramid

And as you continuously grow older and wiser, you’re not only motivated by the “needs” in higher level, but the quality of the entire pyramid should progress within you. You’ll be content with more money (e.g. you used to be happy with $1,000 per month, now you need $5,000), better understanding in family issues, self-respect and the personal growth as a whole.

Bearing that in mind, I think the pyramid can be applied to online marketing in two different aspects; (1) to the entrepreneurs as a strategy, and (2) the marketing niches.

#1: Hierarchy of Needs in Online Marketing


If we apply this pyramid to the motivation for online marketing, it will be something like this.

Level 1 – Physiological

As a complete online marketing novice, you are motivated by one thing – money. How much can I make? 5 figures a month? 6 figures? While it’s good to be pumped up with a plan and great spirit, at this level you only search for what technical steps to take to achieve this.

Level 2 – Safety

You start to be motivated by the sustainability. You need to keep your business going for a long term so that you’ll continue to be paid. Some contingency plans (“what if something happens and I lose all my money?”)

Level 3 – Love/Belonging – Social Needs

Start to build your customer relationship. You want as many customers as possible. To achieve that, you need to learn how to market your products, so that more people actually like them.

Level 4 – Esteem

You only start to grow your confidence once you’ve had a level of customer-base. Your goal will be to understand what your customers’ needs are and to provide the best responses possible.

Level 5 – Self-Actualization

The highest level will be not just to respond well to your customers, but only think about your customers. How to continuously improve your products, how to make a difference in order for your customers to appreciate your business.

#2: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in Marketing Niche

Quite separately, the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can also be applied to the product niche.

Level 1 – Physiological

Niche including basic essentials – it can be food, basic clothing and footwear, cleaning and any household products, baby products, computer equipment, web-hosting and domain-hosting. These are the items everyone needs and, if they don’t buy from you, they have to buy from somewhere.

Internet SafetyLevel 2 – Safety

There are many products to protect people from hazards. Home security products, internet security / antivirus software, debt consolidation and loan arrangement, various insurances including life, travel & motoring. Health & safety clothing and equipment.

Level 3 – Love/Belonging

Online dating is a massive market. People who are content with money and home security are surly motivated by relationships. Not just love relationships but also friendship networking. Love and belonging – pets. Pet related products and services are always largely in demand.

Level 4 – Esteem

This is an area a lot of online marketers have an eye for. Diet and beauty products, gym equipment, workout programs and related books. Not just for physical improvement but also how to learn and enhance social engagement.

Level 5 – Self-Actualization

When looking at the top level of niches, products are to improve something that people may already have. The social engagement in level 4 for example, are looked into more in-depth level. Such as how to improve social respect through spiritual findings, through Yoga or marshall arts, etc.

Improvement of the online marketing itself; better marketing software, better e-commerce software, how to affiliate market effectively and efficiently… Have I seen it anywhere? Yes it’s the pyramid itself that I’ve just applied to #1. The products relating to the ways to motivate the entrepreneurs, improve their skills and grow the businesses.

I hope the above list will help you find out where you are, what you need and what sort of niche is available if you have yet to choose. What are your thoughts? Let me know.

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About the author 

Ray Alexander

ASD. Recovering alcoholic. LGBTQ+ advocate. Semi-retired. 15+ years of web-designing experience. 10+ years affiliate marketing. Ex-accountant. I'm nice and real. Ask me if you need any help in starting up your home business.

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  1. Hi, I really enjoyed reading your theory converting Maslow to online marketing and niches..I guess that what we can learn from your theory is that no words is written in stone, it is all about interpretation and how we understand the so called laws, and how we can make them fit our needs..
    Keep doing the good job with your informative site.
    I’ll come by soon again 🙂

    1. Hi Roy, thanks for your comment. I agree with what you say, it is all about interpretation. I thought it was quite mind boggling to apply one famous theory to what we do, online marketing. My partner is a nurse specialist, who also learned the Maslow’s Hierarchy years ago as a student nurse, which was applied to the patients’ care. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Interesting way to correlate Maslow’s hierarchy to online marketing. I wonder if there are other correlations to other theories that could be applied? For example, the Pareto Principle, and how 20% of your content gets you 80% of your revenue? Or if there is a correlation with Moore’s Law, such that every iteration of your website doubles your audience at half the price? Would be interesting to see if these would hold true, along with any other of these kinds of theories… 🙂 Great post!

    1. Hi Michael, thanks for bringing up other theories – I’m not sure if we can apply Pareto Distribution that way without the actual fact? If there’s the 80-20 rule anywhere in the online marketing, that’s what it is and great! I’ve never heard of Moore’s Law, sorry. If one business growth trend theory matches with your sales trend, then that should be very interesting too. Thanks for your comment, very intriguing!

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