Second in a series on the Maslow pyramid (MP), it is now important to focus one of the many consequences of the model on the entrepreneur's life : marketing and commercializing products.

It may seem disconnected at first, but Maslow's pyramid of needs has everything to do with the product you have in your head / are developing / are trying to sell.

Question : Where does your product fit in the pyramid ? What type of need are you addressing ?

The answer to those questions is your first step in determining you infamous 4 Ps in your Marketing plan. It even helps if you are part of those who believe there are really 7 Ps...

Here's how.  Knowing where your product fits will tell you :
- if your product is a commodity product (lower on the MP) or a luxury product (higher on the MP)
- if you're strategy will be one of volume (lower on the MP) or one of being very different and unique (higher on the MP)
- if you can ask for a high price or not (directly proportional to your product's position on the MP)
- who you will position and target your product to (optimal market is the group that find themselves where your product does on the pyramid)
- what the next functionalities of your products should be (do you want to move up, down or stay at your level on the MP?)

I have so many examples of products that prove the model. One that I like talking about is Starbucks coffee. Two generations ago, coffee was unknown on the general consumer market. Brilliantly marketed, coffee companies were able to make this new product a commoditized one. So much so, that not having coffee in the morning is a valid explanation to someone's bad mood or slowness of mind.

What Starbucks then did was very difficult and demanded as much brilliance in their marketing. They decided to bring the product out of the commodity market and bring it higher on the MP. Today, you don't go to Starbucks for the coffee, you go for the experience and the status getting a Starbucks coffee will get you. It is striking in major metropolitan centers to see young professionals line up around the bloc for Starbucks coffee when a neighboring local coffee shop is empty. Holding a Starbucks cup gives you esteem, confidence and a (very false) sense of achievement - everything describing level 4 of the MP.

So figure out where your product stands and where you want to take it. Use the hidden genius of Maslow or someone else will.


In 1943, Abraham Maslow made one of the biggest contributions of the century to the study of human psychology. He created and published what is commonly known as 'The Human Hierarchy of Needs'. This post will explain the hierarchy (heavily citing Wikipedia). The next posts will apply this old-but-still-relevant pyramid to our everyday lives and, especially, to entrepreneurs seeking to develop their products.

I hope, through this series, to demonstrate the hidden genius and the far-reaching consequences of this pyramid in all aspects of our lives.

Maslow postulated that needs are arranged in a hierarchy in terms of their potency. Although all needs are instinctive, some are more powerful than others. The lower the need is in the pyramid, the more powerful it is. The higher the need is in the pyramid, the weaker and more distinctly human it is. The lower, or basic, needs on the pyramid are similar to those possessed by non-human animals, but only humans possess the higher needs.

The base of the pyramid is formed by the physiological needs, including the biological requirements for food, water, air, and sleep. If some needs are not fulfilled, a human's physiological needs take the highest priority. Physiological needs can control thoughts and behaviors, and can cause people to feel sickness, pain, and discomfort.

Once the physiological needs are met, an individual can concentrate on the second level, the need for safety and security. Included here are the needs for structure, order, security, and predictability.

The third level is the need for love and belonging. Included here are the needs for friends and companions, a supportive family, identification with a group, and an intimate relationship. In the absence of these elements, many people become susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety, and depression.

The fourth level is the esteem needs. This group of needs requires both recognition from other people that results in feelings of prestige, acceptance, and status, and self-esteem that results in feelings of adequacy, competence, and confidence. Lack of satisfaction of the esteem needs results in discouragement and feelings of inferiority.

Finally, self-actualization sits at the apex of the original pyramid. More on that last elusive level in the next post.


Over the holidays, I was teasing my 18 year old sister-in-law about how she's not a normal teenager. Think of the stereotypical spoiled 18 year old depicted in the media and Nathalie is her polar opposite.

She responded in her typical nonchalant fashion : 'Me, I'm real'. I initially laughed it off, and then it got me thinking. What is being 'real' ? The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was a crucial question entrepreneurs have to answer before they begin to think of of the technology or the product they want to create. My business is the reflection of me - might as well know who that 'me' is...

It goes to the core of my being, my values, my dreams. It's what we call 'integrity'.

So how do we figure out what's important to us ? The answers are wide and varied. So I will propose a series of questions entrepreneurs need to answer in order to figure who their 'real' persona is. It is by no means complete, but it gives you a general portrait. When answering these questions, try being honest, authentic and ... ummm ... don't censor anything ;)

Your values
- Name 3 traits you would like to pass on to your kids
- Complete this sentence : Give me ... or give me death
- Complete this sentence : Life, liberty and the pursuit of ...
- Describe yourself in just one word
- Who do you admire most (living or dead) and why ?
- Your 2 biggest strengths are ...

Your environment
- Name the 2 most important people in your life and one word to describe each person
- Name the 2 qualities you look for in a life partner

Your dreams
- Name the 3 greatest moments of your life
- Name the 3 things you love to do
- Name the 3 things you would like to do before you die
- If you had to start your own country, the slogan would be 'In ... we trust'
- If you had 2 rules you would want the world to follow, they would be ...
- If you could start an organization to solve a world problem, what would the 'world problem' be ?

Your world
- If you could teach 3 things to the world about what EXCITES you about it, what would those 3 things be ?
- If you could change 3 things that ANGER you about the world, what would those 3 things be ?

Finding a good idea : X$
Starting a company and growing it based on this idea : Y $
Making a profit : Z $

Figuring out who you really are : priceless