Need States Inform Consumer Decisions

Need States Inform Consumer Decisions

Modern humans have a hell of a lot of needs, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We have advanced to the point that most of us are able to provide for our very basic needs (food, water, shelter, safety) and have the luxury of looking towards more niche needs and desires.

Need states can be as simple as the need for a 4 p.m. snack or as complex as our need to seek deeper meaning in a rapidly cynical world. Identifying and meeting your customers’ need states can be the difference between undying brand loyalty and just becoming another flash in the pan.

Today, we will define need states, learn how to identify your customer base’s need states, discuss using this information to formulate targeted marketing strategies, and why sometimes need states are not the most important way to market your brand.

What are Need States?

What are Need States?

Need states (need-states) are moments of need expressed by an individual or group of individuals at any particular time. To further explore this topic, let us consider something we all need to do daily: eat. 

Susan Schwallie, an executive director from The NPD Group, believes that consumers have four (4) basic need states when it comes to food:

  • Fueling
  • Wellness
  • Connecting
  • Gratifying

Food is a great example of both the simplicity and intricacy or need states. “Fueling” and “Wellness” are really what eating is all about, right? Yet so many of us will opt for grabbing a bite out with friends to connect or making mom’s old meatloaf for the gratification and sentimental value.

Need states will constantly evolve and shift over time, even for the same individual facing the same choices. That is why brands should strive to understand their customers’ need states without becoming too set on a single strategy.

Identifying Your Customers’ Need States

When discussing a customer base’s need states, let’s stick with the food industry. Even more specifically, let us consider a convenience store along an interstate highway vs. a high end grocery store in an affluent section of town.

These two businesses provide similar services: food and convenience items to feed their customers. Yet their customers’ need states vary in significant ways.

The convenience store shoppers are likely traveling or at least prone to be on the road for a long time. This means that ingredients become less desirable and pre-packaged foods are more on the menu. This is because their need state is more driven by fueling, and potentially gratification, and less so about connecting or wellness.

Items which get prime real estate might include soda, beef jerky, nutrition bars, and other grab-and-go items.  

The high end grocery shoppers are likely close to home, running errands. They have the luxury of buying raw ingredients to be cooked later. They also have more time and energy to consider nutritional value and what they might want to make as a connecting experience with friends and family.

Items which get prime real estate might include magazines, health and beauty products, or even samples of new products.

Fulfilling Need States with Targeted Branding Strategies

Fulfilling Need States with Targeted Branding Strategies

So let’s say your organization has done their research, and you have a firm grasp of your consumer base’s need states. What now?

That all depends on your business, your brand, and your mission. Nike and Gatorade don’t just fill their customer’s needs, they create customer need by projecting a brand of high energy, performance, and athleticism with superstar spokespeople like Michael Jordan, JJ Watt, and Abby Wambach.

Once they have done that, they set out to prove why their products are best for satisfying those need states. Nike products allow basketball players to run faster and jump higher. Gatorade fuels athletic performance under the most strenuous conditions. 

Once you know your market’s need state, center your marketing around why your products meets those needs!

Strong Brands Are not Slaves to Need State Analytics

Strong Brands Are not Slaves to Need State Analytics

After singing the praises of need-states’ importance towards brand marketing, we should also state some of the limitations of this strategy. Over-reliance on need state analysis can cause problems for your brand in one of several ways:

  • Your customers are not industry experts, but you are.
  • Customer need states are fluid. By chasing need state fulfillment, you might already be a step behind the market.
  • Focusing on producing a quality product and a solid marketing strategy should always come first. In depth analytics about need states and other details should be viewed as supporting data.

At the end of the day, we believe in brands that know what they are. Market analysis is an invaluable tool, but true innovators disrupt the market and give customers something they didn’t even know they wanted or needed.

Need State Analysis and Marketing Strategy with Clock Tower Insight

Clock Tower Insight helps our clients to build their brands through any means necessary. We believe in using cutting edge research to deliver unparalleled insight and understanding into today’s rapidly changing marketplace. 

With over 15 years of dedicated experience, our marketing insight has helped organizations including Belle Tire, Nielsen, Orbitz, and Kraft Foods. 

We are proud to offer a number of services to our clients, including customer experience management, brand positioning in the marketplace, market sizing, market testing, and more.