Marketing often seeks an objective — clicks, likes, purchases. 

But what's the bigger picture? What inspires people to take those actions and what do they want from brands? 

They're important questions — questions I was inspired to ask by the death of my grandmother, a spiritual woman who taught me the value of moments, memories and relationships.

A Hierarchy of Experiences

To answer these questions, I revisited psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow introduced the hierarchy in 1943 to explain what motivates people. 

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

  • Self-Actualization – Living to one’s highest potential 
  • Esteem – Self-worth, achievement, appreciation, capability
  • Love – Belonging, affection, community, relationships
  • Safety – Security, protection, order, predictability
  • Physiological – Breath, water, food, sleep

Individuals ascend from the bottom to the top of the hierarchy. We fulfill our Physiological needs before worrying about Safety, which takes precedence over Love, and so on.  

Maslow’s hierarchy held the answer to my questions. If this is what motivates human beings, why don’t marketing experiences reflect that? I translated Maslow’s work into a hierarchy of experiences:

Hierarchy of Experience

  • Mission – Moral, spiritual, and creative potential of brand
  • Value – Tangible and intangible benefits of brand 
  • Community – Relationships formed around problem and solution 
  • Solution – Product that solves problem 
  • Problem – A challenge worth solving

Meta-Subjects Answer the Question 'Why'

Generally, we think of experiences in terms of audiences, segments, channels, timing, messaging and other tactical points, not as a psychological hierarchy. 

We tag assets in a DAM system using a combination of tactical terminology and keywords. For example, we could tag a software tutorial video with: tutorial, instructional, training, screencast, demo and video. These words shape how we think of and use content. 

Normally, the metadata ignores the “meta-subject”: the theme of the topic. In the tutorial example, the theme is Solution. The video enables people to solve a problem with the product. They can’t contribute much to the Community, or speak to Value and Mission, until they’ve wrestled with the Problem and Solution. 

Meta-subjects answer the infinite question “Why?” Why create a tutorial video? Why create these pictures? Why write this post? Why bother filling a DAM system with potential experiences?                 

To create consistent and purposeful experiences, marketers should tag and formulate assets based on meta-subjects. The hierarchy can adapt to different industries and brands. 

Imbuing Experiences With Purpose

As an example we'll apply the hierarchy to a made-up consumer brand: Lotus Athletics. The company makes athletic gear for people who don’t go to a gym. Maybe they travel for work or prefer exercising outdoors, or perhaps they like the convenience of home workouts. Lotus’s hierarchy could work as follows:

  • Mission — Empower people to achieve health and vitality anywhere they go
  • Value — People gain strength, improve endurance, increase mobility, and lose fat
  • Community — People chat and trade exercises, workouts, and tips in the online Lotus Lounge
  • Solution — Lotus gear is portable, lightweight, and durable. Users can work out anywhere
  • Problem — People struggle to exercise without fancy gym equipment

Now, imagine DAM assets that we could tag for each level of the hierarchy:

  • Mission — Inspire people to achieve health with the Daily Lotus, a 60-second clip of a user who transformed his or her health using Lotus gear. Post to social networks and blog  
  • Value  The Lotus Tracker, a printout that you tape to the bathroom mirror. Every two weeks, you log progress on strength, endurance, mobility, and fat loss tests
  • Community — User-generated content. Source from Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Promote the videos that exemplify innovative use of Lotus products or impressive results. Post to Lotus Lounge and social networks 
  • Solution — User manuals, professional instructional videos, and cartoon diagrams that teach people how to use Lotus gear. Post on website 
  • Problem — Videos, infographics and memes on the challenges and costs of fitness on the move. Blog and social networks

The experience hierarchy translates into a potential marketing strategy and a DAM organizational scheme. By tagging assets with these meta-subjects, you can provide a consistent set of experiences that have a purpose. This way, human needs, experiences and DAM work together.

The hierarchy mentions channels, but that doesn’t mean you can’t repurpose content — that is one of a DAM's strengths. The user-generated videos in Lotus Lounge, for instance, can become segments in the Daily Lotus. Sending a professional camera crew to each person would be unfeasible and expensive, so why not remix the free content users created?

Delivering on People's Needs

We’ve answered the original question: What, if anything, do people want from marketers? They want experiences connected to a problem, a solution, a community, value and a mission.

My grandmother’s death motivated me to write this article. I hope it fulfilled my own mission: inspiring marketers to act with purpose.