The Steadfast Series: “Marketing in Times of Inflation”

As we continue to guide our clients and community through an ever-changing economy, we’re launching The Steadfast Series: content, advice, tips and case studies for how your business can thrive—today and tomorrow. 

Part 1
Rethinking Your Customer’s Motivation: Needs vs. Wants

In times of inflation, cost-conscious consumers focus on needs versus wants. 

When you think of your own needs, you may define them as those things that are absolutely necessary (e.g., gas, food, water), and wants as luxuries or non-critical purchases.

There are, however, many different types of consumer needs that one can consider.

Psychologist Adam Maslow built a “5-Tier Model of Human Needs” in 1943, which still holds true today. You can tie every key human behavior (and marketing campaign) back to one of these tiers. 

Maslows-Hierarchy-of-NeedsImage Credit: Simply Psychology


How have marketers used Maslow’s key human needs?

  • Porsche: “There is No Substitute” – Esteem
  • AllState: “You’re In Good Hands” – Safety and Security
  • Volvo built its entire brand around – Safety 
  • Coca Cola built its brand around bringing people together and community (“Buy the World a Coke”) 

Häagen-Dazs might not seem like a true “need,” and could be considered a discretionary purchase, but when positioned as a well-earned reward and chance to unwind and de-stress at the end of a work day, it’s flipped to a need. 

Even in B2B, Salesforce’s campaign focuses on belonging: “Bringing companies and customers together.”

You will most definitely sell more to customers in times of inflation by focusing your marketing around their specific needs. 

Many brands and organizations may not be aware of what needs they really fulfill in their customers’ lives. Or, their assumptions were built from pre-COVID or different economic times. 

You must discard your existing customer assumptions and segment consumers around their unmet needs, product usage behavior, and price sensitivity. Customer research has been one of our largest initiatives at the Agency this quarter for this very reason. 

In a recent quantitative study conducted for a healthcare client, we discovered that many customers will pay more for a service if they felt there was not only an end benefit for that person, but for his or family as well. This led to a messaging strategy that focused on family. 

To request an inflation-ready messaging workshop or customer research approach, click here.

Next Up: “Pricing and Promotion in Times of Inflation”