July 19


The Basic Needs of Survival: Its Impact on Buying Behavior

By Hanson Cheng

July 19, 2023

  • minute read
  • Last Updated on July 19, 2023 by Hanson Cheng

    Understanding the basic needs of survival is crucial to understanding how consumers make purchasing decisions. These needs, often referred to as the “hierarchy of needs,” include physiological needs like food, water, shelter, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Psychologist Abraham Maslow first proposed the hierarchy of needs, and it remains a fundamental concept in understanding human motivation.

    This article will explore how these basic survival needs impact our buying decisions and how businesses can use this knowledge to better connect with their customers.

    What are Basic Needs?

    Understanding the basic needs of survival is crucial in comprehending how these needs impact buying behavior. Basic needs are the essential requirements that individuals must fulfill to sustain life and maintain optimal health. The most fundamental basic needs are physiological needs, such as food, water, shelter, warmth, and sleep.

    Without satisfying these needs, an individual cannot focus on higher-level needs, such as safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization. Therefore, basic needs serve as the foundation upon which all human behavior is based, including purchasing decisions.

    For example, a consumer who is hungry and thirsty and has not eaten in several hours is more likely to prioritize satisfying those physiological needs over buying luxury items or non-essential goods. It is essential to note that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a widely recognized theory that categorizes human needs into five levels. In this theory, basic needs are considered the most crucial, followed by safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.

    By understanding how basic needs impact buying behavior, marketers and businesses can create products or services that effectively fulfill these needs and attract consumers. For instance, brands that focus on providing high-quality, affordable food and beverages can attract customers who prioritize satisfying their physiological needs. Similarly, companies that design durable, comfortable, and safe housing can appeal to consumers who require a secure and stable living environment.

    Furthermore, the impact of basic needs on buying behavior extends beyond just providing the necessary products and services to enhance customer satisfaction. It also influences how consumers perceive the value of products or services and the trade-offs they are willing to make. A consumer’s willingness to buy a product may depend on whether they perceive it to be essential to fulfilling their basic needs and the extent to which fulfilling those needs is more important than other needs. 

    Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

    One of the most popular theories in psychology that relate to buying behavior is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This theory explains how humans have a set of basic needs that must be fulfilled before they can move on to higher-level needs. Abraham Maslow classified these needs into five categories: physiological needs, safety needs, love and belongingness needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. Physiological needs, such as food, water, and shelter, are the most basic and fundamental needs that humans must fulfill in order to survive.

    Safety needs refer to the need for stability and security, including emotional safety, physical safety, and financial security. Love and belongingness needs refer to the need for social interactions, love, and a sense of belonging. Esteem needs refer to the need for self-esteem, respect, recognition, and prestige. Self-actualization needs are the highest level of needs and refer to the need for personal growth, self-fulfillment, and the desire to achieve one’s full potential.

    According to Maslow, these needs must be fulfilled in a specific order, with the physiological needs being the most important. Once these basic needs are met, people can move on to fulfilling their higher-level needs. This theory has significant implications for marketers and businesses because it helps them understand how consumers make buying decisions. For example, if a person’s safety needs are not met, they may not be interested in buying luxury goods or expensive products.

    Instead, they will be more concerned with fulfilling their basic needs, such as finding a stable job or a safe place to live. Similarly, if a person’s love and belongingness needs are not met, they may be more interested in buying products that help them connect with others or products that make them feel loved and appreciated.

    In conclusion, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is an essential theory that helps explain the basic needs of humans and how it relates to buying behavior. By understanding this theory, businesses can develop marketing strategies that align with their customers’ needs and desires. Whether it’s fulfilling their basic physiological needs or their desire for self-fulfillment, every need is essential in its own right and cannot be ignored if businesses want to succeed in the market.

    Physiological Needs

    Food and water

    The basic needs of survival include the need for food and water, which can significantly impact buying behavior. Humans require an adequate supply of food and water to sustain their physical health and well-being. When the availability of these essentials is limited, people tend to prioritize them over other commodities. As a result, buying behavior revolves around their need for food and water. The cost, availability, and quality of food and water are critical determinants of purchasing behavior that can affect demand, choice, and pricing of these goods.

    Food is a crucial component of human survival, and people often choose to invest in it when other basic needs may go unmet. The type of food people purchase is largely influenced by their socio-economic status, dietary preferences, cultural background, and lifestyle choices. When people face financial constraints, they tend to buy affordable food items in bulk that can be used for longer periods.

    On the other hand, the availability of a wide range of food options with different attributes, such as nutritional value or taste, often influences the food choices of those with more disposable income. The packaging, brand, freshness, and origin of food are other factors that can influence buying behavior.

    The need for water is a fundamental human need, and its scarcity can have devastating consequences on human health and economies. People tend to behave differently when the availability of water is limited. They may choose to drink less water, prioritize water for their basic needs, or find alternative sources of water. The cost and availability of potable water often drive buying behavior, especially in areas where access to clean water is scarce.

    Bottled water products’ quality, packaging, and origin can also influence purchasing behavior. Additionally, the rise of environmental activism has led to the establishment of ethical consumption patterns, pushing consumers to buy products that promote water preservation.


    The need for shelter is another basic need that impacts buying behavior. Shelter serves as a protection from harsh weather conditions and predators, providing a sense of security, privacy, and comfort. It is a necessity for human survival, and therefore, a crucial factor in determining what people buy. The type of shelter that people purchase and the features they look for will depend on various factors such as their income level, environment, and lifestyle.

    For example, those living in areas prone to natural disasters may prioritize durability and safety in their shelter purchase. Conversely, individuals who live in urban areas may look for smaller living spaces with accessibility to amenities. The type of shelter that people ultimately purchase will depend on their individual needs and preferences.

    Factors such as affordability, reliability, and personal style also impact shelter buying behavior. For example, individuals with lower incomes may opt for cheaper housing options, such as renting or living in small apartments, while individuals with higher incomes may choose larger living spaces with more features. Quality and reliability are also crucial factors in shelter buying behavior, as individuals want to ensure they are investing in a durable structure that will hold up over time.

    Personal style and design preferences also play a significant role in shelter-buying behavior as individuals seek to create a space that reflects their individuality.

    In conclusion, the need for shelter is an essential human need that impacts buying behavior. Shelter provides protection, security, and comfort, and is a crucial factor in determining purchasing decisions. The type of shelter people ultimately purchase will depend on various factors such as affordability, reliability, personal style, environment, and lifestyle. Understanding these factors can help businesses better cater to the unique needs of potential customers, leading to more successful marketing and sales strategies.


    The need for clothing is a fundamental aspect of survival that significantly impacts buying behavior. Clothing serves several essential purposes, including protection from harsh weather conditions, preventing injuries, and promoting hygiene. For instance, in cold climates, individuals must wear warm clothing to prevent hypothermia, while in hot and sunny regions, lightweight and breathable clothing is necessary to prevent sunburn and dehydration.

    Additionally, clothing can be used to protect individuals from insect bites and other injuries while performing certain activities like hiking or hunting. The need for clean clothing is also essential in promoting personal hygiene, preventing the spread of diseases, and increasing self-esteem.

    Furthermore, clothing plays a vital role in the selection of apparel among different age groups and cultural backgrounds. For example, teenagers like to wear trendy and stylish clothing that appeals to their age group, whereas older adults prefer more classical and comfortable attire. Similarly, various cultural backgrounds dictate specific clothing styles and colors that deviate from mainstream fashion trends. This disparity in preference results in a diverse market for clothing that caters to specific niches and targeted audiences.

    Another critical factor impacting the buying behavior for clothing is the individual’s occupation and lifestyle. The type of job an individual has, and the lifestyle they lead dictates the type of clothing they need. A construction worker or firefighter needs clothing that can protect them from harsh environments and injuries. An athlete’s clothing needs to be breathable, lightweight and stretchy to enhance their mobility and performance. Similarly, individuals with busy lifestyles that require multiple wardrobe changes throughout the day prefer comfortable, wrinkle-free, and versatile clothing that complement their routine.

    Overall, the need for clothing is a crucial determinant of buying behavior. Factors such as weather conditions, cultural background, occupation, and lifestyle significantly impact the type of clothing individuals purchase. Understanding these needs helps marketers tailor their products to meet the specific needs of different niches and targeted audiences, ultimately improving sales and customer satisfaction.

    Safety Needs

    Personal safety

    Personal safety is a fundamental priority for individuals, and it significantly impacts their buying behavior. People are willing to spend a premium on products and services that guarantee their safety and well-being. For instance, people are more likely to purchase vehicles equipped with advanced safety features, such as airbags, seat belts, and anti-lock brakes. The sense of security and confidence these features provide creates a perceived value that can influence purchasing decisions.

    Similarly, people invest in home security systems, reinforced doors, and windows to protect their property and deter potential burglars. Technology advancements are also facilitating personal safety by introducing products such as wearable devices that help individuals track their health, alert family members or medical professionals in times of emergencies.

    Moreover, safety concerns arise while purchasing food and beverages. People are more inclined towards packaged foods that have clear expiration dates, proper labeling, and are free of health risk concerns. They tend to avoid foods with a history of contamination, pesticides, or additives; it helps ensure they are healthy and safe for consumption. Similarly, people are wary of purchasing medications from an unknown vendor or store; they seek FDA-approved drugs that undergo proper regulatory checks before making them available for purchase.

    The need for personal safety is prevalent during uncertain events such as pandemics, natural disasters, or life-threatening situations. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a surge of sales for hand sanitizers, facemasks, and cleaning agents. People are willing to adjust their budgets to ensure access to these products that protect against the virus’s spread.

    Personal safety is a universal concern and impacts all aspects of an individual’s life, including their psychological and emotional well-being. Therefore, companies and organizations that prioritize people’s safety and security tend to gain customer loyalty and satisfaction. People’s willingness to spend on products and services that cater to their safety needs is an opportunity and a challenge for businesses to offer innovative solutions that provide them with a sense of security and peace of mind.

    Financial security

    Financial security is one of the basic needs of survival that greatly impacts buying behavior. Financial security refers to an individual’s ability to meet their financial obligations and ensure a stable income in the long term. People who feel financially secure are more likely to make purchase decisions that align with their long-term financial goals. Financial security impacts buying behavior in different ways, depending on an individual’s specific financial situation.

    For instance, individuals who are in debt or living paycheck to paycheck are more likely to prioritize everyday necessities over luxury purchases. They may be more likely to choose generic brands instead of more expensive ones to make the most of their budget. People who feel financially secure, on the other hand, may be more open to investing in long-term assets, such as property or stocks, because they have fewer immediate financial concerns.

    Financial security also influences an individual’s willingness to take risks with their money. Individuals who do not feel financially secure may be more conservative with their investments, while those who feel they have a stable financial foundation may be more willing to take risks and make bold investments. In conclusion, financial security is a significant need for survival that greatly impacts buying behavior. Understanding how financial security influences purchase decisions is crucial for businesses in developing strategies that resonate with their target audience.

    Love and Belonging Needs

    Social connections

    Humans are social beings, and this fundamental need impacts various aspects of our lives, including buying behavior. Studies have shown that individuals tend to make purchase decisions based on the opinions and recommendations of their social circle, such as family, friends, and colleagues. Social interactions and the need for acceptance also influence individuals’ preference for certain brand choices and product categories.

    The rise of social media platforms has amplified this phenomenon as people seek validation and recognition from their online communities. Social media influencers have also become a significant factor in shaping consumer behavior, as their followers trust their opinions and recommendations. The sense of belonging and social identity are also crucial drivers of consumer behavior, as people tend to align their preferences with their social group to maintain a sense of belongingness.

    Additionally, social connections also play a role in post-purchase behavior, as individuals share their experiences with their social circle and seek support or validation. Hence, businesses must recognize the impact of social connections on buying behavior and leverage social interactions to influence and retain customers.


    The need for intimacy is a fundamental human need that impacts buying behavior. Individuals purchase products and services that can fulfill their urge for intimacy, whether it’s romantic or platonic. People often buy gifts for their loved ones, including friends, family members, and partners, to show love and appreciation. They may also purchase products to enhance personal grooming to make themselves more physically attractive to potential partners.

    Moreover, some individuals seek social connections that can nurture intimacy needs. For instance, dating apps and social media platforms are popular among individuals who require romantic relationships to satisfy their intimacy needs. Therefore, businesses can capitalize on the need for intimacy by creating products and services that cater to individuals searching for platonic or romantic relationships.

    This could include designing apps that connect individuals with similar interests or hobbies, creating personalized gifts, or developing cosmetic products that enhance physical beauty, among other things.

    Esteem Needs


    Self-esteem is an essential need that impacts buying behavior. Consumers often buy products or services that boost their self-esteem and make them feel good about themselves. Self-esteem can be defined as an individual’s sense of worth or value. People with high levels of self-esteem tend to have a positive outlook on life and are more confident in their abilities. They are more likely to take risks and pursue their goals.

    On the other hand, individuals with low self-esteem struggle with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. They may lack confidence in their abilities and feel that they are not worthy of success. The need for self-esteem drives consumers to purchase products that enhance their image or status. For instance, people may buy designer clothes, expensive watches, or luxury cars to demonstrate their socio-economic status.

    They may also buy skincare products or cosmetic treatments to improve their appearance and boost their confidence. Moreover, consumers may seek social validation through their purchases. They may buy popular brands and products that are endorsed by celebrities or influencers to gain recognition from their peers.Furthermore, the need for self-esteem influences consumer behavior in a variety of industries. For example, the personal care industry thrives on the need for self-esteem.

    Products like anti-aging creams, hair growth supplements, and teeth whitening kits are marketed as ways to enhance one’s image and self-worth. Similarly, the fashion industry relies on the need for self-esteem to sell luxury products. The psychology behind this is simple: people who feel good about themselves are more likely to buy products that make them look good.

    The personal care and fashion industries are examples of sectors that rely on the need for self-esteem to sell products. Understanding this need is critical for businesses looking to succeed in the market. By catering to the self-esteem of their customers, companies can develop products and marketing strategies that resonate with their target audience.


    The need for recognition is a fundamental human need that is closely related to self-esteem. Recognition refers to the basic desire to be acknowledged, respected, and valued by others. When people feel unrecognized or unappreciated for their efforts or achievements, their self-esteem can suffer. As such, the need for recognition can significantly impact buying behavior.

    People may buy products or services that they believe will enhance their status or prestige in the eyes of others. For instance, people may buy luxury cars, clothing, or accessories to demonstrate their wealth or social status. Similarly, people may buy brand-name products to show that they have good taste or to signal their affiliation with a particular group or community.

    The need for recognition can also drive people to seek professions or careers viewed as prestigious or socially valued. In summary, the need for recognition is a powerful motivator that can influence buying behavior in a variety of ways.

    Self-Actualization Needs

    Personal growth

    The need for personal growth has a significant impact on an individual’s buying behavior. Personal growth is a fundamental aspect of human life, and it is essential to ensure progress and development. Personal growth can be achieved in various ways, including learning new skills, pursuing interests, and exploring new experiences. As individuals strive for personal growth, they become more conscious of their choices and make informed decisions.

    This consciousness carries over into their purchasing behavior. People who value personal growth are more likely to invest in products and services that align with their values and help them achieve their personal growth goals. For example, someone who values personal growth may invest in online courses, self-help books, or personal development programs. The desire for personal growth also affects how people view and consume media.

    They are more likely to engage with content that inspires them to grow and supports their personal values. Overall, the need for personal growth profoundly impacts an individual’s buying behavior, motivating them to invest in experiences and products that support their desire for growth and development.


    One of the basic needs that impact buying behavior is the need for achievement. People have a natural desire to succeed and feel accomplished, which often leads them to make purchasing decisions that satisfy this need. Often, achievement-oriented individuals seek products or services that allow them to showcase their success to others. Luxury items, such as high-end cars, designer clothing, and expensive jewelry, are often purchased as a way to demonstrate social status and success.

    Additionally, these individuals may seek opportunities to learn new skills or engage in challenging activities that provide them with a sense of accomplishment. This need for achievement can also manifest in the workplace, where individuals may seek promotions or opportunities to take on more responsibilities in order to feel successful and accomplished.

    Summary: How Basic Need of Survival Impacts Buying Behavior

    The article explored the basic needs of survival and how it impacts buying behavior.

    Understanding the basic needs of survival is a critical concept that both marketers and consumers should be cognizant of. It can help marketers create effective communication strategies by aligning the messaging with the basic needs of consumers. Simultaneously, understanding what motivates consumers to make purchases can help consumers make informed decisions while purchasing products or services that cater to their basic needs.

    Final Thoughts

    As marketers, understanding the basic needs of consumers enables them to create products and services that fulfill those needs. By meeting basic physiological and safety needs, brands can create a sense of trust and security in consumers, which can lead to brand loyalty and increased sales. This highlights the importance of targeting basic needs when designing marketing campaigns, as meeting these needs may be more important to consumers than other factors, such as price or convenience.

    For consumers, understanding their basic needs can help them make better purchasing decisions. Recognizing that certain needs, such as food, water, and shelter, are essential for survival can prioritize these needs over other wants and desires. Understanding basic needs can also help consumers recognize when they are being manipulated by marketing tactics and make more informed decisions based on their actual needs and priorities.

    The impact of basic needs on buying behavior is also relevant in times of crisis, such as natural disasters or pandemics. Consumers may prioritize basic needs over luxury goods or non-essential services during such times. This has important implications for marketers, who may need to adjust their marketing strategies to meet the changing needs of consumers.

    In conclusion, the understanding of basic needs for survival is crucial for both marketers and consumers. It can lead to more effective marketing campaigns, greater consumer awareness, and informed decision-making. As consumers continue to face shifting priorities and uncertain times, understanding basic needs will remain a critical factor in shaping buying behavior.

    Basic Needs of Survival and the Impact on Buying Behaviors: FAQs

    How do basic needs of survival impact buying behavior?

    The basic needs of survival can impact buying behavior as consumers prioritize purchases that fulfill these needs, such as buying groceries or a warm coat during winter.

    What happens to buying behavior when the basic needs of survival are not met?

    Buying behavior may shift when basic needs of survival are not met, as consumers may prioritize purchasing items that fulfill these needs before buying other non-essential items.

    How does the satisfaction of basic needs of survival affect buying behavior?

    Meeting basic needs of survival can improve a consumer’s overall well-being, which can influence buying behavior more positively.

    What factors affect the importance of basic needs of survival?

    Factors such as geographic location, climate, income level, and personal preferences can impact the importance of basic needs of survival and their influence on buying behavior.

    Can basic needs of survival influence buying behavior beyond necessities?

    Yes, the satisfaction of basic survival needs can create a sense of security and stability, leading consumers to seek out products and experiences that also fulfill emotional and social needs.

    Thanks For Reading!

    You can get more actionable ideas in my newsletter.

     I'll give you info on actionable ideas to grow and cool things that are getting me excited.  Enter your email and join us!

    Hanson Cheng

    About the author

    Living in Portugal with my wife and puppies.
    Scaling online businesses and sharing lessons learned on this website and in our email newsletter.

    Always happy to hear from you, so find me on Instagram if you want to say hi!

    {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}