It’s now all about hygiene – theoretically and literally

Why are we talking about Maslow at the moment?

During the current Covid crisis, many are revisiting Maslow’s much debated Hierarchy of Needs. A classic business, marketing, sociology and psychology framework – here’s our F&G’ed replication of it to save you time: 

The theory is, we strive to fulfil the requirements of each level from the bottom-up. With the ultimate goal of reaching self-actualization at the top. Herzberg’s ‘Two Factors’ motivation theory got laid alongside it, saying the lowest 3 levels mostly represent ‘hygiene’ factors. These don’t motivate people per se, but are taken-as-given necessities that are assumed to be in place (in most advanced or stable environments / societies / companies). While it’s the top 2 levels where most people operate and that actually motivate them to achieve things or change behaviours. 

For example, you usually take it as given that your employer operates fairly and will be able to pay you at the end of the month. And you can get as much in terms of food and provisions as you need. So those things don’t necessarily motivate you as such because we kind of expect them to be there.

The new threat to our hygiene factors

So we’re talking about this again now as Covid-19 is threatening our previously taken for granted hygiene factors. And a lot of people, companies and marketing departments don’t know what to do about it. 

On a personal level, it’s all changed. We’re not certain of our food supplies, health and safety. We’re also suffering financially as our jobs and businesses struggle. Some businesses are operating admirably and with strong leadership, and others falling short of the mark. And many marketing departments are still bombarding us with emails encouraging us to buy all sorts of outfits, accessories – and let’s face it, non-essentials.

How marketing should change because of Covid-19

It feels like many companies are still marketing to the people we were a month ago. When we were still comfortably in the top two Maslow levels and everything was aspirational and accessible. Marketers now need to think about how they should market to the people we are now. Many of whom are now worrying about where and whether they can buy loo roll and paracetamol instead of the latest outfit. 

Hygiene is now a motivating factor

This crisis has levelled the playing field, and now all levels are potential motivators. It’s been refreshing to not take those hygiene-level things for granted anymore. It’s really shown us how it is for a lot of people far far worse off than ourselves. It’s helped reset our minds and expectations, and marketers should review the messages they’re pumping out in the light of this. 

Plus hygiene is the thing that will save many lives right now. The most motivational thing of all.