Marketing and Customer Experience: The Six Core Emotional Needs That Shape Human Behaviour (Part1)

My primary interest is human beings. The value that I most value is empathy. I find myself moved by the kindness-connection-helpfulness that flows when empathy is present. I have noticed breakthroughs in relationship often generate breakthroughs in performance. Which is why I was happy to take up the offer to read-review-share Mark Ingwer’s book Empathetic Marketing.

Let’s start with a passage that gets to the heart of the challenge:

The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.

– Daniel Goleman, Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self Deception

What is it that we fail to notice? I say that we fail to notice that human beings are not just automatons, computing algorithms, merely rational beings. We fail to notice that human beings are emotional-rational-social-embodied human beings.  And this has consequences for how we treat customers, treat employees, treat suppliers, treat ourselves. It has consequences for the quality of our relationships and our performance.

Mark Ingwer says we fail to notice the nuances that make us human

What does business psychologist Mark Ingwer say? He says:

What we fail to notice is the powerful effect of our unconscious on behavior and personalities.… To truly understand why people say what they say and do what they do, we must look at the psychodynamic context surrounding consumer decisions.

…. when faced with many options and advertisements ….. we often decide what’s best for us by gravitating towards what feels right (or frequently away from what feels wrong).

Even when they claim to desire lifetime relationships with their clients and customers, many businesses tactically distance themselves from the humanity of their interactions. The systemic nature of marketing and business strategy inadvertently depersonalises their audience by using language that groups customers into market segments and targets. People are commonly referred to as “buyers,” shoppers,” “payers,” “non responders,” “early adopters,” and “eyeballs.” But too often what is lost is the nuance that makes them human.

Why does this matter? It matters because when we do not keep ‘the nuance that makes us human’ at front and centre of our business decisions then we create products and services which flop. We spend fortunes in business to get people to buy our products – become customers – and then we neglect their emotional needs for the rest of the ‘customer journey’. This is what Mark Ingwer says:

I contend that emotions and resulting behaviours are the foundation for satisfying complex psychological needs…. And individual’s needs are satisfied when he or she is connected meaningfully to others, and through these connections comes to find his or her own unique value and identity. It is a ceaseless, evolving, lifelong endeavour.

.. businesses must have an intimate and conceptual framework for understanding these emotional needs and a passion for meeting them every step of the way.

The heart of the matter: putting full bodied humanity into business?

It occurs to me that Mark Ingwer is pointing at that which shows up for me as the heart of the challenge: putting humanity into business so that the one dimensional picture of human beings becomes alive in all of its many dimensions.  There are three  sentences in particular that resonates with me and I wish to share with you:

Physical needs create life and keep us living, whereas the emotional needs alluded to earlier are what make life worth living.

Meeting needs is not like climbing a mountain. It’s more akin …. to a lifelong game of tug-of-war.

We are beings in conflict, individuals attempting to engage with our many needs outwardly and subconsciously.

What are the fundamental needs that drive shape-drive human behaviour?

Which begs the question, what are these fundamental human needs that shape-drive human behaviour? Mark Ingwer calls attention to two needs in particular: individuality and connectedness.  This is what he says:

Throughout life’s stages, we balance our primary needs for individuality and connectedness…… These two needs underlie most all human motives and serve as the polar forces of a needs satisfaction model, which I call the Needs Continuum.

Sitting on the left-hand side of the continuum, our need for individuality finds a way to sneak into almost all of our behaviour. Western society values the stalwart, self-reliant man….. We subconsciously take and borrow from every one of our relationships and connections in the world to arrive at a better sense of self.

Sitting at the opposite pole of the continuum, the need for connectedness moves hand in hand with individuality …… The need for connectedness motivates us to prioritise friends and family. We often want to buy higher quality goods and services ……. for them them than we do for ourselves. Connectedness …. defines our role as social beings. It’s impossible to live our lives without others with whom to share it. We must be cared for, loved, nurtured. We must be recognised. We must belong to something larger than ourselves.

We need to seek and achieve connectedness in order to thrive and truly know ourselves. Other people are mirrors through which we develop and sustain identity… be connected to others is to open the door to sustained personal growth and happiness.

On the continuum between individuality and connectedness are the following six core emotional needs: control, self-expression, growth, recognition, belonging, and care. 

When approaching customers or prospects, a business must understand which of the six core needs its products or service addresses and then tailor its marketing and product development to best address that core need

In the next post on this series (based on Mark Ingwer’s book Empathetic Marketing) I will explore the powerful human need for control.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant. Passionate about enabling customer-centricity by calling forth the best from those that work in the organisation and the intelligent application of digital technologies. Subject matter expert with regards to customer strategy, customer insight, customer experience (CX), customer relationship management (CRM), and relationship marketing. Working at the intersection of the Customer, the Enterprise (marketing, sales, service), and Technology.

5 thoughts on “Marketing and Customer Experience: The Six Core Emotional Needs That Shape Human Behaviour (Part1)”

  1. Maz, interesting post.

    A question that crosses my mind from time to time…

    Why i it that we all recognise empathy, and value it so much when people are being empathetic with us, yet we (tend) not to be empathetic with others?



    1. Hello James,
      You ask a profound question and one for which I do not have an answer. It occurs to me that it is worth living-grappling with your question. And that is what I will do. As and when ‘enlightenment’ occurs, I will share it with you via this blog.

      In the meantime, I wish you the very best – you and your loved one.

      With my love


  2. James, the answer is simply in the true meaning of empathy. In order to be empathetic, you must have gone through the situation yourself. In that, when you have lost a friend, and you are consoled by a person who has lost a friend, their comments are applicable to your situation, and appreciated. However, if you have not been in a situation before, you will not be able to truly have a deep understanding of the feelings of the other. You may be able to imagine it (sympathy) and communicate it well, but you will not be able to show empathy. Again, like in most writings, the author here has failed to use the term properly. There is no enlightenment moment, just a buildup of experiences that put you more likely to have been in the same position as other individuals.


    1. David,
      I’m not sure I agree with your definition of empathy but agree that there is a clear difference between empathy and sympathy.

      Do we really need to have gone through the situation ourselves in order to be empathetic or is there value in trying to be empathetic and trying to understand what the other person is going through.

      I think there is value in trying.



      1. Hello Adrian, David and James

        It occurs to me that empathy shows up easily in some contexts and not in others. It occurs to me that we have access to being empathic through our lived experiences and through our circuitry – mirror neurone. Let’s see if I can make sense of this.

        It may be that I have never known hunger and thus cannot access the experience of hunger. And as such I cannot empathise, I can only try and project the situation and sympathise. Or it could be that I have experienced hunger and thus can access and re-experience hunger in its totality: the bodily state, the emotional state, the feelings, the thoughts etc.

        Imagine that I have not experienced hunger. And I am face to face with someone who is hungry right now. Assuming that we are in the right environment, is it possible for me to generate empathy with this person? I say it is provided that this person shares (emotionally) his experience of hunger. Let’s imagine that he shares a rich description of what it is to be hungry and in the course of it his face contorts, he tries to keep a stiff upper lip, yet tears roll down his eyes, and then he ends up crying. If you truly did imagine this then I ask you how are you left feeling? If you are feeling emotionally touched, if there is some sadness in you, are you then not being empathic?

        After careful consideration it occurs to me that we do not show empathy for others when a combination of factors are present:

        a) we are in a context that dampens even suppresses emotional feelings and behaviour – including ridiculing those that do show emotions;
        b) we are in a competitive environment where we are conditioned to see others as the ‘enemy’ or simply as the ‘other’;
        c) we are in a hurry to ‘get somewhere’ and fearful of the consequences of not getting there on time;
        d) we are so busy with what is on our minds or needs to be done that we have shut out others;
        e) we are stressed, struggling with our own issues, hassles, demons; and
        e) we do not actually have sight of other person (not looking them in the face), nor do we hear the words and tones of the other person.

        It occurs to me that many of these are present in the world of business. And many are also present in our modern society.

        As with many other aspects of life and living, I do not claim that this is the truth. It is simply what shows up for me as I consider this matter. And in considering this matter further it occurs to me that empathy can be likened to muscle: the more that it is exercised the stronger it grows. In our world we not only do not exercise this muscle, we stamp on those that do exercise it. It occurs to me that this process occurs in the school.

        At your service / with my love


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