Product levels

Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs inspired designer Arthur Eger to develop his own theory of the demands that users place on products and services. This is quite logical: as a market matures, people’s needs evolve and consequently rise in Maslow’s Pyramid. Increasingly higher demands on products are the result. The experience and the story surrounding the product – and thus communication – are also becoming more important. I made a pyramid of the Product levels according to Eger. (Read on for an explanation of product levels.)

Eger’s Product levels
By J. Finkelstein – I created this work using Inkscape., CC BY-SA 3.0,

The needs at the top of Maslow’s Pyramid are individual, because they focus on self-development. Eger adds another phase to this: beyond self-development comes a holistic view of the world, with an eye for others, nature, etc.

Below an explanation of the Product levels according to Eger.

Function fulfilment

  • Product fulfils its function in a minimal way. Sometimes flawed.
  • Market with little competition. High margins.
Function fulfilment: Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, the first commercially sold mobile phone (1983)


  • Optimising important aspects to positively distinguish from competition. Aspects such as:
    • safety,
    • ease of operation,
    • ergonomics
    • etc.
  • Market with multiple providers.
Optimisation of
reliability, weight reduction, size reduction and infrastructure extension:
Nokia 1011 (1992)


  • Products offered hardly differ in price / performance ratio.
  • Extras, such as accessories, must ensure positive distinction and added value.
  • Design and detailing are becoming more important.
  • Market with many providers.
Detailing: mobile phones become more handy: Nokia 2100 (1994)


  • Almost everyone who can have a similar product, has one.
  • Design and detailing are becoming even more important.
  • Lifestyle and atmosphere are added to the product. (Think of transformational positioning; the story, communication becomes more important.)
  • Product is made into a means of expression: the user can distinguish himself from others (who also have a variant of the product). He can show who he is and / or wants to be.
  • Market: Promotion & Place become important to justify the Price of the Product.
Segmentation: Ericsson 318 for individuals. (1996)
Segmentation: Ericsson 388 for the business market. (1996)


  • The user wants to be able to determine the design of the product himself.
  • The products can supply the constituent parts, with which the user can assemble and / or design his own product.
  • Market is saturated, there is a market for additional or constituent products.
Individualisation: Ericsson A1018s with interchangeable fronts. (1998)


  • We are now at the very top of the Maslow Pyramid; self-actualising people:
    • recognise deception and untruth.
    • can put things into perspective better.
    • are not afraid of the unknown.
    • focus on problems outside of themselves.
    • make their own judgment
    • are independent of worship, status, salary, popularity, prestige.
    • have no need to surround themselves with luxury items to impress their social environment.
    • often have a feeling of compassion and fraternity with their fellow human beings.
    • often have a sense of connection with nature.
  • Products must meet requirements such as:
    • good performance,
    • good design,
    • long lifespan; suitable for repair, upcycling, recycling.
    • little environmental impact,
    • good quality.

At this level we do not instantly see what makes the product special, but we understand this from the story around it. So communication is crucial.

Awareness: Fairphone, responsible materials & replace / upgrade parts instead of throwing away whole phone.

Used sources

Also see

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