Saturday, February 5, 2011

What is a “Consumer Need”?

Ever wonder why so many brands take such different approaches to advertising and packaging in their quest to entice you to buy them.  They seem to work so hard to stand for something unique.  Look at cold beverages.  While the function of a cold beverage is essentially the same for tap water as it is any soda in the store, the brands in this category try to stand for meaningful differences in the mind of the consumer.  For example, Gatorade and other sports drinks are satisfying the need to restore your body after working out.  Mountain Dew is inspiring an extreme active lifestyle.  Coke is the all-American classic, and Pepsi looks to be the drink for the “younger generation”.  These brands accordingly spend millions of dollars building these unique propositions.  Why?  Because when a brand satisfies a consumer need, it builds a powerful and lasting bond with that consumer.
The most important goal of a brand or business is to find a unique consumer need and fill that need with its solution.
consumer needs in beverages
Let me give you my definition of a “consumer need”
  • Consumer Need - is a consumer’s desire for a product category’s specific benefit on a functional or emotional level during a specific time or situation.   
Consumer brands need to satisfy both functional and emotional needs, but the stronger is the emotional.  This is because functional improvements are easily copied or outflanked.  
Market leaders find and satisfy unique consumer needs
If two or more brands try to satisfy an identical need, then one of those brands or products is not needed.  These competing brands must rely on tactical thinking:
  1. Modify / Improve functional performance.
  2. Lower the price of offer short tem price incentives
  3. Offer more variety, etc.
The better solution long term is to satisfy a different consumer need. Sometimes a brand has to dig deep with the consumer to find that need, but once found, that brand becomes the single solution for the consumer.
The classic case study of Mountain Dew is a good example.  Back in the 1940 – 1970s Mountain Dew was positioned to fill a need as a unique taste experience – a reminiscent refreshing taste of the rural mountains of Tennessee (Mountain Dew, as I understand, was an old mountain-slang term for home-made alcohol from the prohibition days).  Unfortunately this proposition was largely irrelevant and other taste experiences were springing up everywhere.  The brand worked with consumers to find an unfilled consumer need in the world of cold beverages.  Teenage boys (who consume a lot of soda) were becoming enamored with extreme sports and video games and were looking for brands in apparel, beverages, and other things that supported and complimented that lifestyle.  No other beverages at that time filled that consumer need, and Mountain Dew repositioned itself.  The result of this successful repositioning was that the brand owned this consumer need and grew to be the #4 share brand behind Coke, Diet Coke and Pepsi in the past 10 years. 
Uncovering and filling a consumer need that competition does not fill can mean leadership in a category and more growth potential versus fighting trying to beat another player already satisfying that consumer need. 


Jim Matorin said...

Bob, being a marketing geek, I really like this post. Identifying a consumer need and executing against that need is not an easy task. I like the Mountain Dew example which also reminded me of Jones Soda that cracked the same target market, but stepped it up with their custom label program.

One book I recommend if you have not already read is Youngme Moon's Different which addresses this topic.

Packaging Design said...

Great blog you have provided here about Consumers Needs. Consumers are always exploited by traders and sellers. Consumer awareness is needed to prevent the exploitation of consumers by traders and manufacturers.
Packaging Design

Bob Clark said...

@Package Design. Thanks for your comment. Not sure I know what you mean by consumers being "exploited" Awareness of consumer needs is needed to understand how to best develop appropriate products and messaging

Joseph Rollie Hiceta said...

Great blog! I'm planning to have this as one of my sources for my reporting about Consumer Needs. Would that be okay with you?

Bob Clark said...

@Joseph Rollie Hiceta - Happy to be of help