As unemployment fears ease, Affluents are increasingly “rising up” the hierarchy of needs, and bringing a new mindset to the marketplace.
Several decades ago, psychologist Abraham Maslow described human needs as being arranged in a hierarchy, listed below, starting with the most fundamental needs, and rising to the “peak”:
Over the years, many have quibbled with his arrangement of the hierarchy, or the unscientific nature of Maslow’s work (researchers today’s would charitably describe it as qualitative and anecdotal). But at least conceptually, it offers a powerful idea – individuals struggling to satisfy certain needs will struggle to meet any needs further up the hierarchy. Not much self-actualization can happen when one is struggling to meet basic needs for food and shelter, or so the theory goes.
The notion of “rising up the hierarchy of needs” nicely characterizes several elements of Affluent behavior today. The need for a steady job, and the resulting confidence about future cash flow, are fundamental needs that were called into question in 2008, and have remained nagging concerns throughout the sluggish recovery. While Affluents still have concerns about the long-term health of the U.S. economy, our data shows their personal unemployment fears easing, allowing Affluents to rise further up the hierarchy. Consider the “higher-level” needs involved in several emerging trends …
Affluent spending today is hardly carefree, and we have not returned to the “my future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades” attitude of 2005-07. But at the same time, it is equally clear that Affluents are rising up the hierarchy of needs, presenting new opportunities for Affluent-focused media and marketers.