About the fear of dying
A few years ago I became interested again in Maslow and his hierarchy of needs.
A seemingly outdated concept that is so reductive, but that tells us so much about what never ceased to be and what it is important to return to.
At the time, I was following Simon Sinek, and maybe the trigger was something he said. It is true that we humans have evolved in so many things. In organisational capacity, in resources, in skills. But certainly not in our needs. These remain exactly the same we had when we were still cave dwellers. And the truth is that this idea totally resonates with my way of seeing and being in marketing. I don’t see myself in the classic theories of marketing that persuade and even less of marketing that creates needs. It’s fair to say that marketing accelerates awareness and, when done right, shortens the gap between interest and conversion. But it does not create anything, because what does not already exist within us does not manifest itself.
There are five, and only five, types of human needs. The essentials of survival. The instincts of shelter and protection. The ones of belonging. Of self-confidence and self-esteem. And, when all the above are assured, there is room for us to work on a better version of ourselves.
Curious, by the way, how the unpredictability of the times has been returning us to the base of the pyramid.
And how does all this ultimately have to do with the fear of dying.
Alexandre Monteiro is an author that I have recently discovered by chance. It’s not on my favourites list, but I appreciate the way he sums up the essentials. The one that remains the primal need. The one we find in the middle of a pandemic. He calls it the fear of dying, I call it the fear of being left out. Sinek calls it the security circle. We human beings have a deep need to belong. To stay inside. To be admitted, admired, recognized. To be a part. Because if not, let’s see: in the remote past, when through conflict or inappropriate behaviour we were left out, it was literally outside that we stayed. Out of the cave. And staying out of the cave potentially meant what? Exposed to cold, predators and other unspeakable dangers. Exposed to the possibility of dying.
Whenever we’re out. Whenever we don’t have access. Whenever we are not seen. Whenever we are not called to participate because we are not considered worthy, equal, or competent. We are afraid of dying. A genetic memory is activated that makes us experience the exact same emotional states and defensive behaviours.
So the question that matters is: how, using which arguments and using which communication, content and experience strategies, are we ensuring that, as brands, we are aware of and dealing with this behavioural trigger?
It is out of fear of dying that we react so well, still, to last minute opportunities. It is out of fear of dying that we are so fond of the exclusive club concept. It’s for fear of dying that we love limited editions. It is for fear of dying that trending dances à la tik-tok have become an unavoidable, even in the most conservative business ecosystems.
This is all about the fear of dying to finish, concluding that, for me, it increasingly comes down to the empathic ability of marketers to develop deep and applicable knowledge about human behaviour. To put it in another way, subscribing to Sinek, “If You Don’t Understand People, You Don’t Understand Business”.