Skip to Main Content

Finding Certainty in an Ever-Changing World: A Lesson on Fundamental Human Needs

There are 4 fundamental human needs that we consider certainties. Find out how to leverage them for your brand's future.
Date published:
Finding Certainty in an Ever-Changing World: A Lesson on Fundamental Human Needs

New normal. It’s an oxymoron that if you’ve heard once, you’ve heard a thousand times. Technically, it’s meant to indicate an event that is out of the ordinary but has a long-lasting or permanent impact on a person’s day-to-day.  But for many, it continues to be difficult to settle into a new normal when you feel as though things are still evolving day-to-day.

Nevertheless, it may be time to consider whether this constant state of change brought on by the pandemic truly has an end, or if it’s more of an inflection point. Perhaps, the new normal is now.   

Of course, that doesn’t mean everything is uncertain. In fact, many things in our lives are based on certain universal truths. Some things are obvious, like the fact that we all need oxygen, food, and water to survive, how we all laugh at things we find funny, and that we rely on language to communicate. Other things are less obvious, like the fact that many of the decisions we make in our everyday lives are subconsciously motivated by a universal hierarchy of human needs.  

In fact, over time, inflection points like the one we are experiencing now have affected our human evolution and have left us with a remarkable set of common characteristics that can be considered certain. 

Brands that understand and leverage these types of certainties are best equipped for success, whatever the new normal looks like in the future. Here’s what you need to know. 

Consumer behaviors and unwavering human needs 

As I alluded previously, some of these common characteristics are the foundation of what drives us in our day-to-day lives. As such, these drivers undoubtedly influence the way in which consumers behave and make decisions as well. At Material, we acknowledge and identify these drivers of consumer behavior using our BASE Framework of Fundamental Needs, which encompass Belonging, Appeal, Security, and Exploration.  

These four fundamental needs drive behavior in meaningful ways that even the consumer may not consciously realize. Take this for example; a person is on their way home from work and decides to stop by the store to pick up ice cream for their sick toddler. While they might say the reason they did this was to make their child feel better, fundamentally what motivated the act was that they wanted to express their love and affection for their child and reinforce the strong sense of Belonging they feel as a family. 

You see, we all have goals, and while our goals may be very different, the motivations that drive us towards our goals are oftentimes quite common. At the end of the day, our desire to serve and protect our fundamental needs gives us the motivation to achieve our goals and push forward with our lives.  

Pursuing the right fundamental needs for your marketing strategy 

In marketing, understanding what your consumers’ deep fundamental motivators are will allow you to connect with them and help them to efficiently serve those needs. Depending on the category context, needs are prioritized and applied differently, so it’s important to understand which you should be tapping into and when, otherwise you could be missing the mark.  

To gain an understanding of which needs are important in your category, our BASE Framework activates gut-level reactions that allow us to tap into less-conscious decision-making behaviors. Let’s go back to the ice cream example. If we were to ask each person in-line for ice cream that night what their reason for being there was, then we might get very different answers. Some may say they’re on a date, others may say they were feeling a bit down or that it’s a strong tradition for their family. If we tried to connect with all of the rational reasons behind what drove them there, we would have a lot of paths to navigate.  

Instead, our approach allows us to understand the deeper, underlying reason behind why all of these individuals are buying ice cream — each tie back to that sense of Belonging. This fundamental need is expressed through various acts of love, self-care, and family tradition. Using a less rational approach, we can identify which of the BASE needs are prioritized in a given category and further, how they contribute to decision-making behavior. 

About the author

Monica Belmaña
Monica is the Senior Research Manager on Material's Behavioral Science team, where she applies the latest theories and methodologies founded in psychology toward new frameworks and approaches to answer today’s most complex consumer behavior questions. She holds an MA in General-Experimental Psychology from California State University, Northridge.

Read more by Monica Belmaña
Let's get started
What challenge are you working on? We'd love to help.