In Abraham Maslow’s 1943 paper “A Theory of Motivation,” originally published in Psychological Review, he shared his theory of human psychological growth in humans, called the “hierarchy of needs.”
Maslow shows this as a pyramid in which people cannot advance psychologically unless more basic needs lower in the pyramid have been met.
I have long embraced Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, even writing about how it can meaningfully apply to email in this publication several years ago.
But there’s never been a more important time to use this framework in all we do as marketers, given the current global situation.
Physiological needs: These are the critical requirements for survival like food, water, and shelter.
How are you able to meet your customers’ needs right now? Perhaps you now offer delivery, have different products, have changed hours, or have limited customer support hours? Email can be a strong delivery vehicle for communicating how you are able to serve your customers for their most urgent and immediate needs.
Safety needs: Maslow claims that once physiological needs are met, people are concerned with feeling safe, whether that’s safety from crime, financial security, etc.
How are you keeping your online and physical spaces safe for customers and employees at a time when most people are feeling at risk health-wise? You don’t need to send a dedicated email on the topic, but put a link in all of your emails to a FAQ on your website about how your company is addressing safety needs such as sterilization and protection from cybercrime.
Belongingness and love needs: Right now, every single person on your recipient list is being affected by the current situation in some way. What are you doing to show that we’re all in this together? Now is the time to foster a sense of community however you can. This can be a message of how you’re helping, and even a call-to-action to get your customers involved in the cause.
Esteem needs: Maslow states that all humans have a need for self-respect, and to feel respected by others.
To meet the esteem needs of your customers, you have to show a level of empathy and respect for them. Does your messaging still make sense in the current situation? Do you give birthday offers that are only redeemable in store? Now is the time to make them available online to give people some cheer during this sad time. Small changes can go a long way to make customers feel like they matter.
Self-Actualization: This need is at the apex of the pyramid, and is where someone’s true potential is met.
Applied to email, this need is ensuring that your customers' experiences with your emails and brand delight them so much that they are willing to share and become advocates.
As an example, I most recently gushed about a Panera Bread email on social media announcing the company's pivot into grocery delivery. It was a smart move for a brand that has excess food inventory in a market that needs more consumer-side groceries.
How are you adjusting your strategy in your brand and email marketing efforts to rise to the occasion? Would love to hear from you in the comments!