How to uncover more meaningful insights to build a stronger brand

Clashing two need states to unlock positioning opportunities


Let's take off your marketing hat and step into your consumer shoes for a minute. Could your approach to diet and exercise be described as Disciplined & Routine during the week and Carefree & Indulgent on the weekend? Perhaps, when it comes to cooking you need Time Poor Solutions when you are working but want your Inner Creative Foodie to appear when you have time to prep and cook? Or when it comes to financial matters you spend most of the year in the Budget & Plan need-state but as soon as you hit holiday mode you swiftly move into Splurge & Treat? Whatever the category or occasion you might be consuming in, we all move between different need states each week, day or even hour based on multiple external and internal factors. It is human nature.  You can’t put yourself in one box or one need state 100% of the time. And your category & brand's consumers are no different.  You might have a sexy need state or key occasions study. Or through a collection of observations, insights & experience have a good idea about the core needs & occasions in your category.  Usually, marketers will use these studies to assign each brand a need-state or key occasion to own and will craft their brand and marketing mix around it.  But this is not always the optimal use of the insights available. Why?  Because quite frankly your competitors have got exactly the same need-states and occasions maps. They are commissioning the same research, asking the same questions and consumers are giving them the same answers. So they will be positioning their brands on the same need states.  This makes it hard to be unique & distinctive. It's how you connect the dots & read between the lines that give you the competitive advantage. To uncover the new, unique & motivating insights and therefore positioning opportunities you need to go deeper than the need state map alone. You need to look between the need states and understanding what drives consumers to move between need states and occasions.  You need to find the motivations & tensions that triggers consumer's to change their behaviour and therefore influence what they really seek from a brand. 


This deeper understanding not only delivers a competitive advantage. It also helps build brand relevance because you 'get' your consumer. You know what makes them tick.


Let me explain with some examples: I try and be really healthy during the week and therefore would place myself in the Disciplined & Routine need state from Monday morning through to Friday happy hour.  But on the weekend all shackles come off and I shift quickly into Carefree Indulging mode.  Brands that get my loyalty are not the ones who just help me stay healthy during the week, they are the brands that understand WHY I stay healthy during the week.  And that WHY is......if I am healthy during the week, I have earned the reward to splurge and relax on the weekend, guilt-free.  The credits are in the bank, it’s time to spend them.  My trigger?  I like to EARN the reward of a treat on the weekend through hard work and discipline during the week It's the brands who make it easy for me to stay in control and in a routine during the week (as I do like to enjoy myself and can be lured off track easily). It's the brands who make me feel I have worked hard and achieved during the week so I am maximising my credits for the weekend. And it's the brands who still have a level of enjoyment & variety as routine can get boring. By understanding the WHY and finding the TRIGGER between the two need states you discover there are much deeper, emotional motivations & tensions for a brand to tap into than the surface level, functional observation that "I try to eat a healthy diet & exercise regularly during the week" - YAWN! By understanding the WHY and finding the TRIGGER, the brand is able to tap into my Aspirational Need-state of feeling in control, putting in the hard yards and accomplishing my goals so I can really let loose and enjoy the fruits of my hard work.  Because hard work makes the reward sweeter. As opposed to the Reality Need-state - I have to restrict my eating to a boring routine of the same foods and sweat my arse off at the gym, so I can have a few glasses of wine on the weekend and not pay the price. Which one do you think is more motivating and relevant for a brand positioning?  

Consumers want brands to inspire their aspiration, where they’d ideally like to be. Not hold a brutal mirror up to their reality.

I've got another example for you when it comes to cooking.  When I have time, on the weekends or during holidays, I love nothing more than reading some foodie mags to find a delicious recipe then source the best ingredients and cook up a storm for friends and family (plus I have earned the splurge of pork crackling during the week remember!). I get to unleash my inner foodie and cook with the best, freshest ingredients. This is my Aspiration Need-state. During the week, it is another story.  I have been working all day, driving kids to sport and need to just put a dinner on the table the whole family will eat.  I am done experimenting with flash new dishes that the kids turn up their nose to!  Plus, I am in my healthy routine and that brings another set of restrictions. So I have a set number of dishes that meet all the above criteria but really don't inspire that inner foodie within me, at all! It's just a tedious chore so to make it easier I use short cut, pre-prepared ingredients.  And with the use of processed short-cuts, comes a feeling of guilt. This is my Reality Need-state. So where is the trigger? It comes from looking between my two need states and finding the Why.  My Aspirational Need-state is that I get to unleash my inner foodie more often than every other weekend.  Imagine if I could pull even 20% of this aspiration into my harsh Reality Need-state of weekday meals. Imagine if a brand could help me feel a little bit more like a foodie when I am cooking my boring regular weekday dishes.  Help me feel more creative & more discerning by effortlessly replacing the bland basics & processed shortcuts with better, fresher foodie ingredients. The trigger is my desire to feel more like a foodie even when I am short on time and motivation during the week so I reduce the boredom and guilt associated with reality. So how might you take your current need state or occasion map and push it further to uncover unique, motivating insights and opportunities for a stronger brand positioning? Firstly, take each of your need states or occasions and look for potential intersections eg, where is it likely that the SAME person is operating in two or more need states but at different times of the day, week, month or year? Where external factors and drivers are causing the same consumer to move between need states or occasions regularly? Or where the need states can clash together? Try to match need states or occasions where one is more aspirational than the other or where they naturally take opposing sides. Now look for the opposing motivations and tensions that are playing out in both of these need states. For example: I like to consider myself a creative, discerning foodie when I have time to cook but during the week I am bound by restrictions and shortcuts that derive guilt. I aim to stay healthy and in control during the week so I can earn and enjoy my weekend treats but that weekday routine can be boring so I often get tempted to stray off course.

Your sweet spot is where you can help your consumers spend more time in their Aspiration Need-state ie the motivation side whilst also overcoming the tension in their Reality Need-state.

You kill two birds with one stone! You become more relevant as you promise to solve a deeper problem for your consumer and more distinctive as you are thinking about your consumer's needs from a different perspective to your competitors.


Some complementary resources to help you get there Now, of course, I have developed a little template for you to logically map out your thinking on paper.  You'll find it here And if you'd like to pull this new insight through to your brand positioning, take a look at this workbook to help you evolve your brand promise. If this post has got you thinking, or completing the template has thrown up some questions, I'd love to dig further with you so please feel free to drop me a note.  Two or more heads are always better than one!  Plus I have a few more tips and tools up my sleeve if we need them.

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