You probably remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from school–that model demonstrating our most basic needs (food, security, warmth, rest) at the bottom of the pyramid.

The higher up the pyramid, the more complex our needs. And without the fulfillment of our physiological and safety needs, we’re unable to achieve love, belonging, esteem or self-actualization, at the top of the pyramid.

New research from Bain & Company, published in the September issue of Harvard Business Review, extends Maslow’s hierarchy of needs by identifying 30 fundamental attributes they’re calling “elements of value” that drive consumer decision making.

Their elements are divided into four categories–functional, emotional, life changing, and social impact–and explain the inward and outward-facing needs consumers seek to have met.

Understanding these needs is absolutely critical in sales and marketing. The more elements you can provide for, the greater your customers‘ loyalty, the researchers say.

For example, consumers have a great number of functional needs. They’re looking for solutions that:

  • Save time
  • Simplify
  • Reduce risk
  • Organize
  • Provide sensory appeal
  • And reduce effort.

If those basic values aren’t met, you’re really going to struggle to make an emotional connection with values like reducing anxiety, making a consumer nostalgic, or being entertaining.

Bain & Company collaborated with an online sampling and data collection company for a survey of over 10,000 U.S. consumers about their perceptions of nearly 50 U.S.-based companies.

Their survey confirmed that companies that performed well on multiple elements of value ended up with more loyal customers than the others.

30 Elements of Value–Setting Realistic Expectations

Now, it’s worth noting that you don’t have to check each and every value off the list on every level in order to successfully meet your customers’ needs. In fact, Apple did comparatively well in Bain & Company’s research, but even they only scored high on 11 of the possible 30 elements.

As the researchers explain, “The elements of value pyramid is a heuristic model–practical rather than theoretically perfect–in which the most powerful forms of value live at the top. To be able to deliver on those higher-order elements, a company must provide at least some of the functional elements required by a particular product category.”

It’s important to choose which elements are worth your devotion carefully.

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Image credit: HBR and Design Pickle

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