Reimagining Maslow, But For Gen Z

For more than 80 years, psychologist Abraham Maslow's so-called "Hierarchy of Needs" has dominated how social scientists -- and those applying it on Madison Avenue -- have viewed the underlying theory of human motivation, especially as consumers. But if you were to reimagine it today, what cohort would you choose and how would you revise it?

Well, if you're the insights team at Mindshare, you'd look at Gen Z, of course. And you'd conduct some new, original research to reformulate it. And that's just what the GroupM unit did, with an able assist from JUV Consulting (now UTA's Entertainment Marketing Next Gen), and it came to some surprising new conclusions, especially the fact that the needs of the youngest generation appear to be evolving because of the hybrid physical/digital media world they are developing in.



The study, the highlights of which are published in a new Mindshare "yellow paper" -- "Gen Z Drives A New Era Of Commerce: Community" -- is derived from Mindshare's own massive quantitative research, as well as JUV's qualitative interviews with Gen Zers.

It found the generation is driven much more than the classic food, clothing and shelter mindset of older populations, including the following shifts:

  • From Physiological to Accuracy: Gen Zers are passionate and want to support companies that align with their values and provide them accurate, trusted services and information. This is the new, most basic need.
  • From Safety to Safe Spaces: Gen Z will prioritize digital spaces that promote user safety. They view the internet as a harsh place. 64% do not trust everything they see online. So they gravitate to online safe spaces, particularly for marginalized groups.
  • From Love to Fandom: A single person can be a part of an endless number of communities that impact their identities, influencing their purchase intent. In fact, Gen Z is 38x more likely to purchase products that borrow outside IP and 80% have made purchases via creator-led livestreams. Brands need to work with creators to co-build online communities and connect directly with consumers.
  • Building Self-esteem Through Forums: Gen Z’s sense of self is a blend between online and offline identities. In commerce, brands can meet this need by providing products and experiences that enhance a consumers’ confidence within a certain group, even if it isn’t hyper-specific to them individually.
  • From Self Actualization to Hybrid Advocacy: Think of “actualized” consumers as brand ambassadors. Gen Z’ers are not only advocates among friends and family, but they can be the same for brands, embedding it or its product into their identity, and even using it as a springboard for creation.

The Mindshare report does not go into the planning, buying, targeting or messaging implications of the findings, but North America Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer Kathy Kline notes: “To successfully engage with Gen Z, marketers will need to transform their approaches, and this will first and foremost require a deep understanding of how Gen Z behaviors are shifting, and what’s driving those shifts.

"Our work on the Phygital Pyramid that underpins it, empowers our brands with a nuanced view of the intricate balance between Gen Z's digital and physical lives, enabling the creation of meaningful and effective marketing strategies.”

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