Marketing Needs wants and demands

To help understand customer requirements it is helpful to think in terms of needs, wants and demands of the customer. Needs are defined as ‘states of felt deprivation’ such as food and self-expression. Needs become wants when it is directed towards a specific object or service that is believed to satisfy that need. Wants are the manifestation of the human need that is shaped by the individual and their culture.

Wants become demands when the customer has the capacity and inclination to pay for the object or service.

Marketers divide the types of needs into stated, real, unstated, delight and secret needs as shown below:

Classification of Needs

Type of Need Definition
Stated What the customer asks for
Real What the stated needs actually mean
Unstated What the customer also expects but does not ask for
Delight Needs that are not essential but would delight if met
Secret Needs that the customer does not express, often intangible in nature

So what are the secret needs? They’re all the things the customer does not express, and often does not even acknowledge to themselves.

When in all other ways your product is equal, appealing to these secret needs will give you the edge.

To help explore the secret needs of the customer, it may be useful to consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, or Max-Neef’s Fundamental Human Needs.

The theory of needs can be applied to strategy outside of the marketing world, and provide some really unique, almost ‘freakonomic’-like insights. Take the world game, soccer or football, depending on where you are from. There is as situation called the ‘penality shootout’, where the goalie must go one-on-one with a striker from the opposite team.

As the striker is taking his run up, the goalie must commit to a course of action, dive left, dive right, or not move at all

Statistically, each is an equally valid decision. Except, a secret need of the goalie is to not look stupid. A goalie that chooses not to move, knowingly or unknowingly risks looking stupid on TV and to the fans. Not moving does not feel like a valid response to the situation. So even though the probalistic outcome of where the striker will place the ball is the same- left, right or centre- most goalies will choose against staying put, prefering to do an amazing dive to the left or right. Atleast it looks good right?

The moral of this story about soccer is, don’t underestimate the power of people’s secret needs.


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