I want it but… do I actually need it?

How many times have you asked yourself that question? I´m sure that all us have, at some point, confronted this dilemma. It´s Sunday morning, you´re at the mall and something (probably quite shiny) grabs your attention – it´s the new version of your favourite mobile phone. You just bought the previous version a couple of months ago but that doesn´t matter, the new version is there and you want it. Then you question yourself: “Do I really need it?” This simple question has many implications, but today we will analyse it from a psychological and consumer behaviour perspective.

We all are familiar with Maslow´s hierarchy of needs. It is used to classify human needs in different categories, starting with the physiological needs and safety, and finishing with esteem and self-actualisation. Most of us, people who live in a developed country, have the basic physiological and safety needs covered. This leads us to explore our social, esteem and self-actualisation needs.

Let’s assume for a moment that self-actualisation is a synonym of happiness. Therefore, we would find the search for happiness at the top of this pyramid.

But… How would you define happiness? How can we find it? Is it the same process for everyone?

I’m afraid this question is becoming harder and harder everyday. Is the happiness related to success? If so, what is success? Since we are young, we learn how success is often related to large properties, power or a good job. Therefore, we work really hard to achieve these objectives.

Finally, I got that job that I was looking for. To celebrate it, I’ll buy the new iPhone 6 because I deserve it

Once we start achieving our objectives, we strive for more. There’s something inside us which always makes us look further. We don’t know exactly what we are looking for, but the desire is latent.

I’m happy with my car, but I wouldn’t say no to the newest model.

We live in the world of information, where we are bombarded with thousands (millions!!) of stimulus everyday. There’s always something new to buy. Something new to look forward.

But, have you ever wondered if all those things you’ve worked really hard for (to get a new car, a big house, the newest technology) are in reality your true objective?

Why do people go crazy when the new version of the iPhone is released? Do that people really need that product to be happy?

The conclusion here seems to be, that our society tends to search happiness through material ephemeral products. These products can give us happiness during a certain period of time, until we find a new product that makes us happier.

This is the reason why we might be always looking to buy the new product. To experience that feeling again. However, is that really the path to reach that self-actualisation/happiness that Maslow was talking about? Could it be just an ephemeral distraction? Who knows. What is true, is that marketers know how these new products can make us ephemerally happy.

Therefore, the next time we are in that shop, craving for that new product… Why don’t we ask ourselves this question?

Do I really need this?