money health weekly


People Like Us Do Things Like This

marketers hijack your need for belonging

❝People like us do things like this.❞ -Seth Godin

It's 2007, and I'm walking through one of the buildings in downtown Minneapolis when I see a car dealership. Something about me wants to walk in and take a look around. I never want to look around at a car dealership or any other place where I know aggressive salespeople will attack me as soon as I walk in the door. Yet, I walk in, and I have a look around. I'm looking for a new car.

This is interesting to me because it's so different from my normal behavior. Then it occurs to me that last weekend, one of the partners at my employer had everybody over for a poker game. I drive a 10-year-old Dodge Intrepid with a belt that occasionally squeals along with many other mechanical issues. Oddly, before that night, that was okay with me. However, nearly everybody from work was at his house, forcing me to see what kind of car everybody else drives.

Subconsciously, I told myself a story. I told myself that if I wanted to rise through the ranks of this firm, I had to do what the people at the top of the firm did. The most visible thing I could see was to drive a nicer car.

In other words, I wanted to belong to the group of people who drove nicer cars. People like that - partners at the firm, did things like this - drive nice cars.

belonging is when you are a part of the group


Author and financial psychology pioneer Dr. Ted Klontz has distilled all our human needs down to six basic needs. There are many sub needs, of course, but our basic needs have the initials BASSPC:

  • B - Belonging is feeling that we are a part of a group.

  • A - Autonomy is the feeling that we can make our own choices.

  • S - Safety/Security is the feeling that we are not in danger.

  • S - Self-Expression is the feeling that we have been heard and understood.

  • P - Purpose is the feeling that we matter; that we live a meaningful life.

  • C - Connection is the feeling that we have interpersonal relationships.

Every one of our behaviors is a desperate attempt to meet one or more of these basic needs. When our brains feel that a need isn't being met, it becomes emotionally flooded as a way to get that missing need met.