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.

Connected Decision-Making Frameworks

Cynefin Framework

The Cynefin Framework gives context to decision making and problem-solving by providing context and guiding an appropriate response. The five domains of the Cynefin Framework comprise obvious, complicated, complex, chaotic domains and disorder if a domain has not been determined at all.

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT Analysis is a framework used for evaluating the business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It can aid in identifying the problematic areas of your business so that you can maximize your opportunities. It will also alert you to the challenges your organization might face in the future.

Personal SWOT Analysis

The SWOT analysis is commonly used as a strategic planning tool in business. However, it is also well suited for personal use in addressing a specific goal or problem. A personal SWOT analysis helps individuals identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Pareto Analysis

The Pareto Analysis is a statistical analysis used in business decision making that identifies a certain number of input factors that have the greatest impact on income. It is based on the similarly named Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of the effect of something can be attributed to just 20% of the drivers.

Failure Mode And Effects Analysis

A failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) is a structured approach to identifying design failures in a product or process. Developed in the 1950s, the failure mode and effects analysis is one the earliest methodologies of its kind. It enables organizations to anticipate a range of potential failures during the design stage.

Blindspot Analysis

A Blindspot Analysis is a means of unearthing incorrect or outdated assumptions that can harm decision making in an organization. The term “blindspot analysis” was first coined by American economist Michael Porter. Porter argued that in business, outdated ideas or strategies had the potential to stifle modern ideas and prevent them from succeeding. Furthermore, decisions a business thought were made with care caused projects to fail because major factors had not been duly considered.

Comparable Company Analysis

A comparable company analysis is a process that enables the identification of similar organizations to be used as a comparison to understand the business and financial performance of the target company. To find comparables you can look at two key profiles: the business and financial profile. From the comparable company analysis it is possible to understand the competitive landscape of the target organization.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

A cost-benefit analysis is a process a business can use to analyze decisions according to the costs associated with making that decision. For a cost analysis to be effective it’s important to articulate the project in the simplest terms possible, identify the costs, determine the benefits of project implementation, assess the alternatives.

Agile Business Analysis

Agile Business Analysis (AgileBA) is certification in the form of guidance and training for business analysts seeking to work in agile environments. To support this shift, AgileBA also helps the business analyst relate Agile projects to a wider organizational mission or strategy. To ensure that analysts have the necessary skills and expertise, AgileBA certification was developed.

SOAR Analysis

A SOAR analysis is a technique that helps businesses at a strategic planning level to: Focus on what they are doing right. Determine which skills could be enhanced. Understand the desires and motivations of their stakeholders.

STEEPLE Analysis

The STEEPLE analysis is a variation of the STEEP analysis. Where the step analysis comprises socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental/ecological, and political factors as the base of the analysis. The STEEPLE analysis adds other two factors such as Legal and Ethical.

Pestel Analysis

The PESTEL analysis is a framework that can help marketers assess whether macro-economic factors are affecting an organization. This is a critical step that helps organizations identify potential threats and weaknesses that can be used in other frameworks such as SWOT or to gain a broader and better understanding of the overall marketing environment.

DESTEP Analysis

A DESTEP analysis is a framework used by businesses to understand their external environment and the issues which may impact them. The DESTEP analysis is an extension of the popular PEST analysis created by Harvard Business School professor Francis J. Aguilar. The DESTEP analysis groups external factors into six categories: demographic, economic, socio-cultural, technological, ecological, and political.

Paired Comparison Analysis

A paired comparison analysis is used to rate or rank options where evaluation criteria are subjective by nature. The analysis is particularly useful when there is a lack of clear priorities or objective data to base decisions on. A paired comparison analysis evaluates a range of options by comparing them against each other.

Related Strategy Concepts: Go-To-Market StrategyMarketing StrategyBusiness ModelsTech Business ModelsJobs-To-Be DoneDesign ThinkingLean Startup CanvasValue ChainValue Proposition CanvasBalanced ScorecardBusiness Model CanvasSWOT AnalysisGrowth HackingBundlingUnbundlingBootstrappingVenture CapitalPorter’s Five ForcesPorter’s Generic StrategiesPorter’s Five ForcesPESTEL AnalysisSWOTPorter’s Diamond

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