Updated Maslow

People increasingly value seemingly irrational things. A product’s price is often outweighed by sustainable and ethical efforts in its manufacturing. When applying for a new job, the salary may come second to the mission of the company you’re applying to.

Although it may seem to be completely against our instincts, it probably happened to every one of us at some point in our lives that we decided to pursue something bigger than ourselves. Take, for example, parents, as their own interests are often far less important to them compared to ensuring the health and well being of their child.

There is no need to introduce A.H. Maslow to the readers of TDLY magazine. Being one of the most eminent psychologists of modern times and the author of the famous ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ pyramid, he is one of the most cited psychologists in introductory psychology textbooks.

However, as researched by Koltko-Rivera in 2006, the version of the hierarchy depicted below is inaccurate according to Maslow’s later description of the theory. In 1969, Maslow himself amended his model from 1943. Yet, his later descriptions never earned the appropriate attention of the academic community and so the complete theory is not commonly taught even nowadays.

traditional maslow

As a reminder, the theory says that a person’s motivation alters based on the stage on the pyramid he or she currently is. The rules are that we go from the bottom to the top and in that given order. According to Maslow’s amendments, however, there is not self-actualisation right at the top of the pyramid as self-transcendence should be placed even higher. Contrary to self-actualisation level which stands for the fulfilment of personal potential, self-transcendence represents a person’s need to further something beyond himself or herself and to experience a communion with something above oneself.
updated maslow hierarchy

This “new” perspective may help to shed some light on altruism, religion, terrorism and social movements in general. In fact, the application ranges across all social studies. In terms of business, for example, it clarifies that a brand’s social responsibility activities may not only positively impact a brand’s image but also fulfil the CEO’s self-transcendence needs. Moreover, it may fulfil customers’ self-transcendence needs as by purchasing a particular brand, they also support some cause (e.g. charitable). For instance, Steve Job’s passion for technology or Elon Musk’s devotion to environmentalism, enabled them to authentically build the brands of Apple and Tesla on these foundations which consequently transcended to both consumers and the employees of the companies by fulfilling their self-transcendence needs.

Fenty by Puma and Rihanna AW16 Collection

With celebrities endorsing a range of sportswear and fashion, it is no surprise that brands as a result, do extremely well – prime example Adidas and Kanye’s ‘Yeezys’. What most sportswear aficionados probably already know; but the rest of us would find surprising, Puma’s AW16 collection with Rihanna, titled Fenty, has consistently sold out on both releases within 2 days. The newest collection was sold out within a few days.


Rita Ora’s collection with Adidas did not have as much success in comparison to Rihanna’s with Puma, which is unparalleled to Kanye West’s with Adidas who is coming up to the level of achievement Michael Jordan has had with Nike.

This has proven that some celebrity collaborations work and some do not. However, it does raise the question of ‘is it the celebrity that enabled the triumph or failure?’ moreover ‘does it depend on who the celebrity is?’ Or is it simply related to the aesthetics of the products.

Nonetheless the excitement for trainers (or sneakers) will never allure some of us and will render others in an endless spiral of refreshing their browsers waiting for a release!

We wish you luck sneaker heads!


The Death Of The Ad Agency?

Recently I had a conversation with a former colleague concerning an AdAge article, which spoke on the emerging role of Account Managers. He referred to it as how individuals in the Ad Industry need to become “A Jack Of All Trades, Master of Advertising”. However, the biggest takeaway from this conversation was that in today’s world so much more is expected from agencies than ever before.

Increasingly companies are moving marketing expertise in-house (Sprint being a prime example). Marketing budgets are being decreased, whilst clients want greater ROA. I could talk about how this is a vicious cycle – drop in marketing expenditure leads to drop in sales which leads to drop in budgets which leads to drop in marketing expenditure and so on and so forth. However, I think that there is something more vital that we need to consider, and that is whether or not Ad Agencies are still needed? Are we slowly but surely witnessing what some might call, an inevitable demise? After all, why would I pay somebody to perform a service that I believe I can do myself and at a lower cost!?

Let me pause to clarify; as much as I would like to be all knowing, to be the “Jack Of All Trades, Master of Advertising” I’m not. Where the world will be in 10 years’ time…even in ten days’ time, is anybody’s guess. The fact that you can type in the phrase “the ad agency is dead” into Google and get over 8 million hits is a cause for concern. Do I believe there is a single answer to all of the calamities that the industry has and will face? Definitely not. I don’t have the answers, but I do think that this is a conversation that needs to continue to be had.

We’ve seen that agencies have proven themselves adept at understanding new communications platforms and finding the best, most relevant ways for brands and retailers to engage with their consumers, an example of which can be seen in JWTs work on Shell; breathing fresh air into a somewhat stale category. On a fundamental level, we see that the world is constantly evolving, the industry is changing, and as a result we find that agencies need to be ever questioning and proceed to go above and beyond what is required of them.

We could provide an endless ream of examples and praise a magnitude of agencies that have managed to evolve with the world, but that’s doesn’t fully address how to overcome this problem.

Time and time again we’ve heard that “the traditional agency model is dead”, I don’t want to reiterate this message for the umpteenth time, however what I do want to probe, is whether or not the modern agency has a chance for survival. We can talk about the importance of increasing CTR, maximising lead generation and ensuring that agencies assist in creating a fully integrated consumer experience. Yet, if agencies are to survive,  we need to explore and exploit something much more basic. Something that is often taken for granted. Agencies need to fully capitalize on the one thing that their clients don’t have simply because the corporate culture may not allow for it. To quote John Kao “The search for value has led companies to seek efficiency through downsizing, rationalizing and right-sizing – approaches that eventually result in a diminishing level of return. But what will fuel growth in the future? Growth will come through mastering the skills of creativity – and making creativity actionable.”

Yes, yes and yes! Creativity is key! Actionable creativity even more so, but in the age of Big Data being a creative agency is no longer enough. When one person with a wireless connection can be an agency, a media company, and everything in-between, it ultimately results in advertising organizations having to change their culture, processes, structure and talent policies in order to embrace the change brought about by digital connectivity.

The growth of digital advertising that bypasses agencies’ traditional role in placing content has a major impact on how agencies are viewed. In my humble opinion, overcoming this problem comes down to one thing, which is what agencies have been doing since their inception, but merely change the direction of focus. Put simply, this is understanding people. With a slightly different hook, instead of only having a consumer facing approach, one needs to appreciate that the businesses they deal with are not some sort of mystical, ‘Holier-than-thou’ entities. Surprise surprise, businesses are comprised of people, and just as consumers can be persuaded into thinking a different way, so can businesses.

Humans perceptions can be changed, humans can be surprised, they can be maneuvered into a place whereby a desire for something new can overcome the “importance” of simple numbers on a page . For ad agencies to survive the shift to open systems, they must not think of providing clients simply with innovations but rather, transformations. Agencies must rethink their business models and go from being place-based organizations that sell time, to creating a new operating system that harnesses the creativity all around them. They need to be fearless! They need to stand out! A new, fresh approach to the type of people an Ad Agency looks at needs to be embraced, having an incestuous circle of hiring from agency to agency destroys any and all hope of differentiation, the same service is provided by the same type of person, the only difference is a name.

Ultimately, there is a need to question the status quo. Francesca Gino and Bradley Staats put it perfectly, “Early in life, we realize that there are tangible benefits to be gained from following social and organisational norms and rules. As a result, we make a significant effort to learn and adhere to written and unwritten codes of behavior at work. But here’s the catch; doing so limits what one can bring to the organisation.” Agencies can no longer afford to meet expectations, they need to thrive to exceed them, at the end of the day, the client is the employer, the agency the employee, and as Steve Jobs famously said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” If this is the perception that can be created… maybe, just maybe, they can keep the grim reaper at bay for some time to come.


How charity runs became the new marketing stunt

A few of us will run the 10km Race For Life, on the 10th of July to support the charity Cancer Research. I thought it would be a relevant occasion to discuss how charities manage to raise money via sporting events. Although it happens in a lot of cities, I will focus my interest on London, our city of predilection, where this is becoming such a trend that you even need a diary to keep up with all of the scheduled runs!

charities run

So, how come this bunch of smiling participants are ready to do so much for the cause? Including paying registration fee, running donation pages & mini campaigns on social media to raise money, and putting groups of friends together to participate in the race.

Through the organisation of races, charities manage to raise not only money, but awareness, visibility and greater credibility, like any other brand would seek. They manage to do so with two simple things:

First, by (e)-linking people to the cause before, during, and after the event. For instance, Race for Life sends (or bombards!) participants with emails about the up-coming race, how to train properly, how to raise money, or even how to eat healthy, up to 8 weeks in advance!

race for life tip training communication email

And this type of communication is how you make this event more than a simple race. You turn it into a personal goal by making participants commit to it 110%. You organise training runs in parks, register everyone and make sure the team has matching t-shirts for the D-day. As a participant, you basically ‘work’ for the charity without realising it!

Secondly, charities get people onboard by switching the focus away from what is such a difficult cause into a celebration of strength, bravery and courage: Cancer is a nasty thing, and fighting it is a great, complicated battle. So, of course, you do not expect people to be ‘down’ at these kind of events but the atmosphere gap is such that it brings positive spirit, unite people and bring them together.

The infamous Color Run, for instance, make it a point that no banner or poster you can see has the word ‘cancer’ written. Only positive words such as ‘the happiest 5k on the planet’ are mentioned. Only bright colours on t-shirts & faces, bright colours thrown up in the air for each kilometer ran, as a milestone of achievement. And a party at the finish line, with music, food, drinks and happy (tired) people.

Runs are an even greater communication operation as these moments of happiness are later shared all across social media by participants, as you would expect them to do (!)

color run charity

They Don’t Love Pubes

Every 5 weeks, my morning goes something like this: eyes slowly open, sunshine peeping round the edges of the blinds, the smell of coffee and toast wafting from the kitchen downstairs, birds singing, bicycle bells chiming past my window. And then the realisation that it’s been 5 weeks since my last bikini wax and I have an appointment later. The wave of dread and nausea that overcomes me is one similar to stomach ache.

I owe a lot to my beautician. She keeps my nails perfectly manicured, my eyebrows neatly tended to and my pubic hair non-existent. I can confidently vouch for the truth behind ‘beauty is pain’. But I have several questions.

At what point during my sexual maturity did I believe that looking like a Barbie was beautiful? How much of my interpretation of sexual beauty have I learnt through societal pressures and how much through marketing and branding? Will my children’s generation feel the same way about body hair and the desperate need to remove it? Who is responsible for the taboo that is body hair? Is it women, or men? Is it the pornography industry? Is it the beauty industry as a consortium of social values and activities? Is it brands and products themselves?

I compiled an online survey to better understand the connections between expectation, relationship status and potential influences of body hair removal. After nagging my friends to complete the survey and to send it out to all of their friends, I managed to get a decent number of responses, with 61% being female and 39% male.

18% of informants said they expected their partners to remove their body hair, of which 88% were male. Reasons varied from comfort during sex, a measurement of attractiveness and plain disgust. Of those informants who did not expect their partners to remove their body hair, 89% were female. The predominant reason here was the respect that their partner’s body is their own, and that their opinion doesn’t overshadow their partner’s decision to remove or keep body hair. This is fascinating as it shows major differences in male and female expectations and could prove how our gender can influence our cultural conditioning.

Almost 60% of informants said they believed relationship status impacted their own hair removal. There seems to be a divide in the reasoning behind this figure. Some felt they would remove their hair more often when in a relationship whilst others felt a long term relationship was cause for not removing hair. Some of those men who agreed that relationship status impacted body hair removal believed a relationship made their partner ‘lazy’. This is in stark contrast to the ‘comfort’, ‘love’ and ‘understanding’ which females gave as reasons for worrying less about body hair in relationships. Both genders also stated that a desire to please their partner by considering their preferences also influenced their own hair removal when in a relationship.The couples segment is a challenging one as brands must attract two different personalities by making one decision. With such varying views of body hair removal, how can marketers successfully communicate to the individuals within the couple and/or the couple itself?

Does product development and marketing frame our perceptions of body hair removal? Do they encourage and entertain our societal boundaries? Whilst razors could just sit on the pharmacy shelves, Gillette (P&G) pour millions into advertising to enforce the notion that your legs or face are only beautiful if they are groomed. Some may argue these products simply respond to consumer needs but my argument is that such needs are created as a result of societal evolution and some are passing fads that represent cultural shifts, demonstrating how these fads are shaping sexual perceptions and experiences for many young people.

Enter Fur. Fur is the first brand to launch products that “cares for pubic hair and skin”, under the principle that we look after the hair on our heads, and so should consider looking after our down there hair too. Their current line comprises of 2 products: Fur Oil and Stubble Cream. And they’re not cheap either – $39 (£28) and $32 (£23) respectively, both more expensive than my own wax. The Fur Oil is targeted at those who prefer to be natural and the Stubble Cream is intended for use on waxed, shaved or lasered nether regions. Both treatments pride themselves on being free from nasties (phthalate, paraben, silicone, artificial fragrance and dye) and being full of natural ingredients (antioxidant extracts, shea butter and luxurious oils).

fur pics

The marketing rationale behind Fur’s inception was the acknowledgement that the beauty market is crowded, but opportunity lies in pubic hair care. A bold move in a society that is generationally obsessed with hair removal. A 2013 Remington study found that British women spend an average of £8,000 in their lifetime on hair removal treatments (at home and in salons). So business is simple maths: 1 Brazilian wax every 6 weeks for 1 year (use £30 as the national average) = roughly £350 per person. Fur recommend using their oil product every day, in which case a 75ml bottle would probably last 3 months, therefore needing 4 bottles for 1 year at £28 ($39) = £112. Can price-sensitive consumers be swayed by this saving and never wax again? Waxing is a lucrative source of revenue for beauticians, and pubic-sensitivity seems to outweigh price-sensitivity.

Generally speaking however, young people would not be able to afford this type of luxury beauty product. Should larger, mass, personal care brands be introducing competing products at cheaper prices in an attempt to give everyone the same opportunities to look after their pubic hair? This would be another piece of the changing puzzle of societal perceptions.

Can advertising and marketing be incorporated into pornography? The gap between male and female porn viewers becomes increasingly smaller (PornHub reported that females represented 24% of their global viewership in 2015), creating a huge opportunity for marketers to access sexually minded females with personal care products. Could porn stars become advocates for healthy hair removal or maintenance products by endorsing innovative and accessible brands?

Innovations such as Fur are brave and bold but can they make a dent in the already claustrophobic and at times, judgemental, beauty industry? As a niche brand, it answers to a niche consumer need and has support from niche distributors. Their current sales are unknown and it may take time for the brand to gain significant market traction based on the societal pressures facing the pubic hair taboo. The last question in my survey was related to pubic hair products, and whether my informants would consider purchasing. Over 50% said they would not and reasons were insightful. Some said they preferred a beautician to look after it, others were not convinced of the added benefits or value, nor did they understand the unique selling point. Some felt it was too much effort, others felt this was an unnecessary purchase and there was doubt regarding the hefty price tags of such products. Another point about niche brands is that many are start-ups, and thus lack the capital to acquire detailed market research reports. As such, many start-ups are developed on the back of the innovator’s perceptions and the limitations of their research in the field. Whilst Fur’s market research may be more sophisticated and extensive than my SurveyMonkey questionnaire, it is impossible to ignore the uncertainty around such products, highlighting a need to educate the consumer or giving brands the opportunities to change societal perceptions.

I am a believer in that if like minded people shout loud and often enough, their voices will one day be heard. As a beauty junkie and supporter of self-confidence via personal care and cosmetics, I believe the beauty industry today should represent a variety of consumer needs. Whilst well-established and large conglomerates continue to dominate the industry overall, niche brands are not far behind and are listening to real customers with real, underrepresented needs, proving that customer is king. Whilst I believe brands like Fur have the power to change perceptions of beauty, I feel somewhat like a lost cause myself, as I sit here dreading my wax on Wednesday afternoon.

Original artwork by Jess Deare.