Here’s the Hierarchy of Needs Behind Personal Branding

April 18, 2016

11:05 am

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Whether we realize it or not, we naturally gravitate towards certain people, products or brands that make us feel a certain way. These emotions don’t happen by chance, in fact experts say there are more underlying psychological connections that draw us in.

David Klow, psychotherapist and owner of Sky Light Counseling Center in Chicago, said that we are drawn to a brand that satisfies a core need.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory proposed that people seek to satisfy certain needs during their life until they reach self-actualization or their full potential. Illustrated through the five-level pyramid, people are regularly replenishing the basic needs, food, shelter and safety, then through personal growth they progress up the pyramid and begin to seek purpose, creativity, confidence and solve problems.



Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Brands that seem to build a large following could be satisfying a person’s inner core need from one or more of Maslow’s levels, Klow explained.

“For someone that has their basic needs met, some people are looking for someone to help them within themselves,” Klow said.

Help could take the form of content that serves others in solving their business problems, providing encouragement or offering creative solutions.

Klow said that within each piece of brand content, there is an element of personal expression. Individuals need to evaluate what values and attributes about oneself – and the business – that they are sharing with the audience.

“Consider what we are conveying, what aspects about ourselves, our vanity and energy, as well as our product, that we are trying to convey that makes an impression on our audience.”

For example, if you want to be known as a business that stands behind your product and willing to do what it takes to make it right, consider if the brand messaging is consistently communicating attributes of trust, confidence, knowledge and customer satisfaction.

“For the business person who is trying to develop a personal brand, it’s useful to think deeply about what attributes we are trying to convey in that image,” Klow said.

In order to develop world-class content, Dan Norris, co-founder of WP Curve and best-selling author, said to take the design of your message seriously, including all aspects of your communication and graphics, and plan out the entire lifecycle of that piece of content.

“For WP Curve, we wade through 60 ideas per month. We think about the entire process, about spreading the word, where will we share it and who will we tell,” Norris said.

Most importantly, the content needs to be personalized.

“It’s expected now that you’ll be delivering content yourself and engaging with the community. The smart content marketers will move away from the automation and go heavily towards personalized content that is rich and real,” Norris said.

Same goes for social media posts – your audience will be able to tell if it’s you or not.

“No one wants to see automatic tweets. People want to see what you think about a subject right now. Looking to the future, these social apps will be more rich in terms of content that they will require from you,” Norris said.

Through personalized blogs, social media posts, videos and more, a brand could trigger emotions that satisfy a person’s need.

“If you are trying to attract a certain type of person, and the attribute you are conveying is inspiration through your personal brand, then you know that you’ll blend with people who are looking for inspiration and where it would resonate with them based on the Hierarchy of Needs,” Klow said.

During the brand growth process and building connections with one’s audience, experts caution that if a brand’s message is inconsistent between online platforms, it could develop confusion.

In a survey by Domain .ME conducted by Wakefield Research the report indicated that “while we may understand the profound impact online content can have on our ‘real lives,’ Americans aren’t necessarily taking useful steps to burnish their online reputations. Also, 57 percent of Millennials surveyed have changed their opinion about someone based on content they saw about them online.”

“There can be a dissonance on what we are conveying in terms of our personal brand and the values we embody,” Klow said.

Experts warn that building a brand could become self-satisfying to a fault if the messaging is serving a personal need more so than others. It’s important to continually ask for feedback from your audience and people you trust to understand if the message you are trying to convey match your intentions.

“People have to find the line between self-serving promotion and promotion that generates value for others. You could begin to track [your content] internally and externally – get feedback from trusted advisors and break down what resonates with people,” Klow said.

Before launching that next blog or tweet, quickly run through a self-awareness exercise and discover if you are pushing out content for you or for others.

“Check internally and [ask yourself], ‘what if I don’t post that, will I feel ok or do I need to post it? Does this add value or does it satisfy my need? Could I live without posting?’” Klow said.

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Tishin is a technology journalist and correspondent. She has written for TechCrunch, Demand Studios and Fitness, and has regular network segments on local Phoenix affiliate stations. She holds a Master's degree in Clinical and Sport psychology, and has covered many areas of technology ranging from 3D printing and game development to neurotech and funding for over 15 years.