Need Theory

The Need Theory, also known as the Three Needs Theory, was proposed by David McClelland in 1961. According to this theory, human behavior is primarily driven by three fundamental needs: achievement, affiliation, and power.

  • Achievement: The need for achievement refers to the desire to excel, to succeed, and to accomplish challenging tasks. Individuals with a high need for achievement tend to set ambitious goals for themselves and are willing to take risks to attain those goals.
  • Affiliation: The need for affiliation refers to the desire to establish and maintain social relationships with others. Individuals with a high need for affiliation value the sense of belonging and seek to establish and maintain friendly relationships with others.
  • Power: The need for power refers to the desire to control and influence others, and to be in charge. Individuals with a high need for power seek positions of authority and enjoy being able to influence others.

According to McClelland, each person has a dominant need, which influences their behavior and shapes their personality. Understanding these needs can help individuals and organizations to better understand their own motivations and those of others, and to develop strategies to motivate and manage people effectively.

The Need Theory has been applied in various marketing research studies to better understand consumer behavior and motivations. For instance, a study by McClelland and Winter (1969) applied the Need Theory to product development by identifying the dominant needs of potential customers. The authors found that individuals with a high need for achievement preferred products that offered challenges and opportunities for success, while individuals with a high need for affiliation preferred products that fostered social connections.


McClelland, D. C. (1961). The Achieving Society. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand.

McClelland, D. C., & Winter, D. G. (1969). Motivating economic achievement. New York: Free Press.