Understanding your customers' real needs

Building a brand is about building a relationship with your customers. For this relationship to be long-lasting, it has to be based on something meaningful. That comes when a brand satisfies a real need, either better or in a different way to any other brand available

Some needs sit nicely on the surface of people's consciousness, so they are easy for researchers to identify. This is particularly true of functional needs like price, taste, convenience or availability. Others, though, sit at a deeper level. These are more emotional in nature and are sometimes unconsciously felt.

The problem is these needs are harder for people to articulate. But the prize for understanding underlying needs is considerable, because they are invariably the key to genuine loyalty.

So there is now a branch of the research industry that specialises in 'Need States' research. They all tend to use models built out of the same principle that our needs stem from two sources - our personality and our social identity, nature and nurture.

A full explanation of these models can sound a bit like a psychology lecture. But the benefits of taking a need-led approach to your brand issues are considerable. Here are ten of them:

  1. Identifying ALL NEEDS that exist in your brand's market
  2. Producing a MODEL of your market that's consumer- not market-derived.
  3. Understanding WHY people do what they do, not just what they say they do.
  4. Getting to the real DRIVERS of brand preference.
  5. MAPPING brands, product types, sub-categories and occasions against need.
  6. Identifying a unique territory your brand can OWN.
  7. Showing you areas into which your brand could EXTEND and even completely NEW AREAS of opportunity.
  8. Providing a rationale for a PORTFOLIO of brands.
  9. Giving you a template for analysing and developing your entire MARKETING MIX.
  10. Helping with the comparison of different INTERNATIONAL markets.

The other key feature of need states research is that it can be both qualitative and quantitative. The same model can be used for both, which means you can not only understand a need but measure it too. Unfortunately the budgets to do this tend to be considerable.

So it's best for smaller businesses and brands to use need states research as a qualitative tool. But the principle is the same - the closer you are to your customers' needs, the closer they'll be to your brand.

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