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Accessorizing our Needs

March 9, 2008

pumpsOn a recent road trip with my nearly 20-year-old step-daughter, Elizabethtennis shoes interrupted her own perusing of Elle Magazine by blurting, “I wish they wouldn’t call shoes ‘accessories,'” to which I responded, “You mean they should be categorized as a ‘need,’ like, uh, food?” To which she grinned, “You mean my 47 pair of shoes in my room and the 20 pair back at my dad’s home may not qualify as ‘need’?”I said, “Well, I figure if you have tennis shoes and a pair of black pumps, you have ‘need’ covered. Everything else is pretty much an accessory.” She didn’t even put up a fight. I had no idea she was stowing 47 pairs of shoes in there (doesn’t that require a whole separate room?).This playful banter with E brings us back to the whole issue of what qualifies as “need.”

Here’s a few observations: One, it would probably behoove all of us to recognize a hierarchy of needs in our lives so we don’t mix up our accessories with our needs. Try Maslow’s Hierarchy if you need a place to start. But, from a marketing point of view, I would organize them a little differently.

  1. Our most primitive needs could be identified as Basic Survival Needs–food, shelter, breathing, clothing, shoes that fit, a legal way to obtain these (e.g. a job or a parent) and a reliable way to get there (bus, car, etc.), decent health, a spiritual center to keep our motor running.
  2. Next up could be Basic Communal Needs–strong parental figures to mentor us, social boundaries and laws that keep peace so we can function, some friends to love and to love us, the kind of education and a spiritual community that provides and/or encourages the meeting of your Basic Survival Needs.
  3. Then, Maintenance Needs–the need to sustain the decisions, growth, and even luxury we experience. For instance, if we take a spouse, we need a good relationship and we need to do things to assist in keeping that relationship good. If we buy a house, we need the “tools” of upkeep. If we desire to learn and have the aptitude, we need opportunities to learn more.

Two, what qualifies as a need is definitely relative from economy to economy and frommaslow’s hierarchy of needs community to community. It requires more to meet your basic needs in some places than in others. Still, we ALL must be mindful that if we can sleep under blankets in the summer or if we have a choice between black dress shoes or brown dress shoes in the morning, or if we can write on a laptop lying in bed, we are RICH in comparison to most of the world–and much of the city we live in.

To marketers, put your pastoral hats on. Frankly, I would appreciate it if you would stop marketing to my children’s “wants” by trying to convince them that their wants are really needs (I realize that’s your job). Target their real needs. They still have plenty. And right now “want” and “need” come off their tongues almost interchangeably.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 25, 2008 11:08 am

    I’m not sure how to difference some ‘accessories’ from real stuff. I own these pumps shoes which, for they comfort and price, could be easily considered as accesosories:

    http://www.jildorshoes.com/category.cfm/hurl/Pumps/catID=25459

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