what drives us to shop, ego or insecurity?

what drives us to shop, ego or insecurity?


I ask myself lots of questions, on a daily basis, and often drive myself mad. So in a bid to not go mad, I decided a while ago that I’d find out the answers, rather than speculating about them, and share my thoughts with you. Hopefully you’ll find them of interest!

For some time now I’ve been intrigued about our relationship with our perception of self worth, ego, insecurity and the values that drive us to purchase a particular item. After a great chat with Kate Nightingale, head consumer psychologist & founder of Style Psychology I can now piece together an answer. 

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs uses the principle that we are 'motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others. Our most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behaviour. Once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us, and so on'.


Our initial state of how we enter into a buying experience is very important. If we have low self esteem, body image issues or are suffering from depression our relationship to the purchase will be very different to that of one where our esteem needs are met. Even buying the same item we can have a different relationship with buying it a different point or emotional state in our life. 

Our perception of luxury is derived from our social status, money, how we were raised, family values, culture, social classes etc. Each individual has a slightly different view on what luxury is and what makes us feel ‘worth it’. 

From a branding and marketing perspective we are never going to be able to tailor our message to individuals but we can look to using Maslow’s principles to consider where we are positioning our brands. For example if your brand’s target market is operating the love & belonging part of Maslow’s needs, customers will value social gatherings, making new friends, enjoying experiences together, hence why social media is so popular, and business are focusing on experiential retail, creating flagship stores where you don’t actually need to buy something at that exact time. 

If we think of ethical or luxury fashion consumption we are certainly concerning ourselves with the upper two tiers of needs. Which brings me back to another question, is ethical fashion (buying) just for the middle classes? After considering Maslow’s needs the answer is yes. However creating an ethical and sustainable fashion industry affects society as whole, especially those who are trying to climb up the pyramid from the bottom, who work long hours for little reward.  

In short the answer to my question is both ego and insecurity drive us to purchase, it just depends from what emotional state you start your shopping journey from.

Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos.
— Abraham H. Maslow, Farther Reaches of Human Nature, New York 1971

title image adwoa aboah for vogue mexico april 2017

Kate Nightingale is head consumer psychologist & founder of style psychology who works with brands including Harvey Nichols and Debenhams to help them connect on a deeper level with their customers. 
They help businesses create brands which are in tune with how human mind works; brands that not only sell very well but which also connect and generate advocates not just consumers. Based on their scientific expertise style psychology understand that consumers’ minds do not perceive channels; they rather see brands in a holistic manner. Therefore services are not based on communication channels but rather key areas of business that have an impact on how consumers perceive brands.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Need's definition via simple psychology


CRAIG CRAWFORD - ex burberry vp who puts the sparkle into fashiontech

CRAIG CRAWFORD - ex burberry vp who puts the sparkle into fashiontech

ANDREA BURY - empowering change through design

ANDREA BURY - empowering change through design