According to philosopher Alain de Botton, Facebook thrives because it taps into an overlooked and underserved human need: the desire to have better relationships. So says a TechCrunch article recapping a recent speech he gave on the virtues of modern business.
TechCrunch correspondent Natasha Lomas summed up the Facebook story this way:
“Whether Facebook is actually serving that need well is a whole other question, but the appetite it taps into is undeniable. And de Botton argues that other core human needs continue to be drastically underserved by the modern business community — providing a fertile opportunity for startups to fashion and forge businesses that are successful exactly because they serve the goal of increasing our wellbeing.”
According to de Botton, business needs to move further up Maslow’s pyramid of needs:
“You just have to start with human need. What is it that really makes people happy? How we relate to others. The single greatest contributor to people’s wellbeing is what sort of relationships they are in. And we are hopeless at relationships. Think of Maslow’s famous pyramid of needs, at the bottom you’ve got material needs, as you climb up towards self actualization, meaning, friendship, connection etc. I would simply say that more of the economy needs to go further up Maslow’s pyramid.”
Just scratching the surface
de Botton sees huge business opportunities that are yet overlooked and underserved:
“There is a back to basics view that suggests that capitalism is sort of running out of steam because we’ve got everything that we need… I think that’s completely wrong. The world economy will only, as it were, have done its job when everything is perfect. There are so many needs which we haven’t yet learned to satisfy and a full economy will be one which properly delivers happiness across so many areas. At the moment we are just scratching the surface. We have managed to satisfy people’s basic material needs… but we’re unhappy, we’re squabbling, we’re looking for meaning. These are all businesses waiting to be born. Waiting for the ingenuity of entrepreneurs to harness human unhappiness and connect it up to profit.”
The role of brand strategy in transforming capitalism
Modern businesses need modern brand strategies that blend empathy, purpose, and emotion. Empathy as a cultural attribute naturally leads people to explore Maslow’s pyramid of human needs and to see how the assets of their company can be better matched to solving the problems and maximizing the opportunities those needs present. A purpose-beyond-profit, encapsulated in a brand promise, helps lift the sights of a company and its people, by engaging everyone in a meaningful and noble ambition to improve well-being. By recognizing the power of emotion, and learning how to modify products, processes, and policies so they evoke more positive, motivating, and gratifying feelings, purposeful brand strategies change the game of business, and help achieve de Botton’s vision of future capitalism:
“Capitalism has taken a real bashing over the last few years, is in deep trouble as a concept, assailed from all sides. Where we’re aiming to get to is a good version of business, a better version of capitalism.”
Emotive Brand is a San Francisco branding agency.