Brandi Herrman

*Editor’s Note: CC Biz Buzz is a monthly column series that runs in the Columbia Daily Tribune that features insightful commentary from a member of the Columbia College Robert W. Plaster School of Business faculty.

Abraham Maslow, who first explained the hierarchy of needs, provided a model in 1943 in his article “Theory of Human Motivation.” This model became the basis for many concepts in psychology and forms the basis for the consumer-buying process in marketing.

The most crucial needs we have as humans are food, water, a home and money to survive. Once we have the basic needs of survival, the second tier of human need includes safety and health. These, of course, make sense.

But when we cover those bases, there’s still more we want and need. Humanity desires community. We live in families. We work in groups.

In marketing, the lower on Maslow’s hierarchy a product or service is, the more necessary it is for a wide audience. There are some products and services that fulfill multiple levels on Maslow’s hierarchy. For instance, vegetables can be purchased in every grocery store around. However, what draws people to a farmers’ market? The element of community is a significant factor in that purchase. We know who is planting, harvesting and selling our food. By shopping with local farmers who live in our community, farmers capitalize on relationships. They focus on the similarities they share. And that draws us to purchase from specific, in this case, local growers.

Think about your favorite coffee shops. It’s likely not just the coffee that makes your favorite place. The allure of a coffee shop is, of course, the menu. It’s more, though. Every coffee shop feels different from the others. It reflects the community it serves. It’s the atmosphere and the people who matter.

When you go to a place that feels like home, surrounded by people who are similar, or for whom you care, we find our community — a need we all have. The same happens online. People long to find their community through digital means, in social networks.

How does this relate to business? Business can create, for its customers, that same sense of community. It can happen in person. It can happen online. We create a place for others who have a shared need and desire.

Business should capitalize on community.

Community first. And the typical measures of success in business will come.

Brandi Herrman is an instructor of marketing, public relations and advertising at Columbia College. After working full-time in the industry for 13 years, she took the leap to full-time teaching and hasn’t looked back. She’s curious by nature, but is most interested in digital and social media communication and marketing.