A CMO’s ‘Hierarchy of needs’

This is an auspicious week, as after four years and 204 columns, this Secret Marketer is going to emulate his heroes, Dr Who, James Bond and the Stig and metamorphose into a new Secret Marketer – this is the last article to be penned by yours truly.

I have decided to use this opportunity to rewrite a piece of fundamental management psychology – my version of Abraham Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ from a CMO’s perspective.

Maslow built his pyramid on what he called “physiological needs” at the base – the things critical for human survival. I believe this was broadly correct; the primary requirement for all marketers is resources – having enough budget and headcount to be able to do our job.

Maslow argued that the next most important need is safety. In my hierarchy, it is good agencies. As marketers, we need great support – to come up with ideas, to challenge the thinking in our briefs, but above all to act as the safety net – someone to blame if it all goes wrong.

The third level of human needs for Maslow was a feeling of belongingness. I would go with having a great boss. I’m lucky to have someone who I learn from every day, who challenges me, but helps me develop into a better marketer and business person. We have a great relationship and it is the one thing that I value most about my role. At times I infuriate him but we’re a good team and have done great work together.

Maslow’s penultimate level was esteem – the need to be accepted and valued by others. I would use the word ‘respect’. Nothing drives me more wild than colleagues outside of marketing who try to make marketing decisions without me, or by ignoring my perspective. It infuriates me when a marketing view is not sought, and/or my experience is overlooked. The meetings that I most enjoy are where I am listened to, and my views built on, rather than ignored.

Finally, Maslow’s pinnacle was self-actualisation – reaching your full potential. I believe this is best captured as ‘making a difference’. I have spoken at length about the need for marketers to demonstrate their worth – to show a relevant return on investment – and to get accepted at the board table. Yet nothing feels better than knowing that your efforts resulted in a customer changing behaviour, buying or sharing something positive about your brand – as a direct result of a campaign or activity that you ran.

That’s it folks – it has been a pleasure to write this column for so long. I hope I have made a small difference to your lives, created conversation topics that you have discussed with others and above all, I hope that I have made one small step in making marketing better respected.


Alain de Botton
1 Comment

Brands can be a means of spreading genius or idiocy

Alain de Botton

High-minded people are often instinctively suspicious of the idea of brands. Brands can seem hateful on so many grounds: because of their maddening ubiquity (they surprise us on a mountain walk or on arrival in a new country where we’d gone specifically to experience a different culture); because they squeeze out smaller independent alternatives to which they are often the inferiors; or because they radiate values which appear to us fake, exaggerated or plain daft. It’s natural to suppose that we would, ideally, live in an entirely unbranded world.


There are 2 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. JV_at_lAttitude_in_Cairns 26 Mar 2016

    Thank you Secret Marketer for your work. I may not always agree, but I have always found an interesting line of thought to consider. So, what now?

    • Secret Marketer 26 Mar 2016

      Thanks JV – life would be boring if we always agreed! This column is all about a perspective, and that is what I have tried to do – to create a conversation and hopefully make people think – especially on the agency side of the fence – how CMOs really operate! It has been a blast, so back to the day job… and to seek to grow the reputation of Marketing inside and outside of my company… through every channel open to me….

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