Needs Vs. Wants In Marketing

In marketing, it is critical to understand the difference between the needs and wants of the target audience. Consumer needs are essential for business sustainability, while consumer wants provide important marketplace differentiation for the business itself.

Understanding needs vs. wants in marketing

A marketing strategy is the “what” and “how” to build a sustainable value chain framed for a target customer. A powerful marketing strategy needs to be able to manufacture desire, amplify the underlying value proposition, and build a brand that feels unique in the mind of its customers.

Many businesses sell products or services that satisfy basic human requirements. Cars are one such example since most consumers have a fundamental need for transportation. Companies that sell food, drink, safety, or shelter-based needs also fall under this umbrella. What’s more, they have become highly skilled at extolling the rational and logical benefits of their products to drive sales.

For the most part however, consumers tend to purchase on emotion. In other words, they purchase according to wants. The consumer looking for a new car might want a five-star safety rating, metallic paint, and an automatic transmission. What they need are four wheels and an engine. In a market where every new car satisfies these needs, consumer wants provide an important point of difference in marketing strategies.

For businesses and their marketing teams, understanding the difference between needs and wants is important. Needs represent basic requirements, functions, or features consumers expect to be satisfied. Wants, as we have already discussed, are points of differentiation and are generally not essential to human survival. If used correctly, however, they can turn a satisfied customer into a loyal and devoted follower.

Digital marketing is a sub-set of marketing which uses the Internet, and online platforms to drive a marketing strategy. Digital marketing channels offer opportunities to reach small audiences with a high degree of personalization, thus growing businesses even with lower budgets and a better understanding of those audiences.

Determining consumer wants

Marketing to consumer wants means first determining what they are.

Businesses with existing products can simply ask their customers why they purchase from them. Why do they want the product? What does it do for them beyond functionality?

When determining wants, emotional triggers are a good place to start.

The car buyer looking for an automatic transmission may want a simpler way to drive in peak hour traffic. Their emotional trigger might stem from feelings of relief and comfort.

The car buyer looking for a five-star safety rating may want peace of mind for their young family. Here, the emotional triggers may be security, contentment, or even fear.

The car buyer looking for metallic paint may want a modern look that does not fade as quickly as other types of paint. They want to feel satisfied, proud, and happy.

A marketing channel represents the set of activities necessary to create a distribution for a product and make sure that the product is delivered in the hands of the right people and that the potential customer is satisfied with it. The marketing channel also needs to be aligned with the brand message of the company.


Customer obsession goes beyond quantitative and qualitative data about customers, and it moves around customers’ feedback to gather valuable insights. Those insights start by the entrepreneur’s wandering process, driven by hunch, gut, intuition, curiosity, and a builder mindset. The product discovery moves around a building, reworking, experimenting, and iterating loop.

A sometimes overlooked aspect of needs and wants in marketing are demands.

Essentially, wants turn into demands when a consumer has the financial means to purchase a want. Many consumers want a luxury 100-foot yacht, but few could afford the asking price. Nevertheless, yacht companies have responded to the demands of the ultra-rich and made them available for sale.

Demands, like needs and wants, will vary according to the target audience. Demands will also be influenced by societal and cultural norms and market conditions. As a result, marketing teams must craft campaigns that reflect an understanding of who the customer is and what they are willing (or able) to pay for.

Nike vision is “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” While its mission statement is to “do everything possible to expand human potential. We do that by creating groundbreaking sport innovations, by making our products more sustainably, by building a creative and diverse global team and by making a positive impact in communities where we live and work.”

Key takeaways:

  • In marketing, consumer needs are basic functions or features they expect to be satisfied. Purchases based on consumer needs tend to be logical and rational and represent elements critical to human survival or functioning.
  • Consumer wants are features non-essential to product function that provide businesses with market differentiation. These purchases tend to be based on positive or negative emotions.
  • Consumer demands are wants a consumer has the financial means to purchase. Effective marketing campaigns must consider the wants of an individual buyer and whether they can afford to pay for them. Ultimately, this has important implications for product viability.

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