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.
|Aspect||Needs in Marketing||Wants in Marketing|
|Definition||Needs refer to the basic necessities and requirements that individuals or consumers must have to survive, thrive, or fulfill a specific purpose.||Wants are desires or preferences for products, services, or experiences that go beyond basic needs and are not essential for survival or well-being.|
|Nature||Needs are universal and fundamental, shared by all humans, such as food, water, shelter, and clothing.||Wants are subjective and vary from person to person, influenced by culture, personal values, and individual tastes and preferences.|
|Motivation||Needs are driven by biological, physiological, or safety factors, compelling individuals to seek solutions to fulfill these fundamental requirements.||Wants are often motivated by emotional, social, psychological, or aspirational factors, reflecting personal desires, aspirations, and lifestyle choices.|
|Marketing Focus||In marketing, needs are addressed through essential products and services designed to satisfy basic requirements, like grocery stores or healthcare.||Wants are targeted by marketers to create products, services, and experiences that cater to consumers’ desires and preferences, such as luxury items.|
|Consumer Behavior||Consumers are more likely to prioritize fulfilling their needs over wants, as unmet needs can lead to discomfort or dissatisfaction.||Wants may be pursued once needs are met, and consumers have the capacity to pursue products or experiences that align with their desires and preferences.|
|Purchase Decision||Buying decisions related to needs are often practical and driven by functionality, affordability, and availability of essential products or services.||Purchase decisions for wants may involve emotions, aspirations, and personal identity, with consumers seeking unique or premium offerings.|
|Product Categories||Needs-based products or services include necessities like food, water, clothing, housing, and healthcare.||Wants-based products or services encompass a wide range of items, including luxury goods, entertainment, travel, fashion, and leisure activities.|
|Brand Positioning||Brands catering to needs often emphasize reliability, affordability, quality, and accessibility, focusing on meeting basic requirements.||Brands targeting wants often position themselves as aspirational, exclusive, and unique, emphasizing the emotional and lifestyle benefits they offer.|
|Advertising Strategies||Advertising for needs may focus on practicality, safety, health benefits, and cost-efficiency, highlighting how products or services fulfill essential requirements.||Advertising for wants may employ storytelling, aesthetics, emotional appeal, and status symbolism to create desire and aspiration around the offerings.|
|Market Stability||Needs-based markets tend to be more stable and less susceptible to economic downturns, as demand for essentials remains relatively constant.||Wants-based markets can be more volatile, with consumer spending on non-essential items influenced by economic conditions, consumer confidence, and trends.|
|Economic Impact||The demand for needs tends to be inelastic, meaning that consumers will continue to purchase essential items regardless of price fluctuations.||The demand for wants can be elastic, meaning that consumers may reduce spending on non-essential items during economic downturns or price increases.|
|Psychological Satisfaction||Fulfilling needs provides a sense of security, stability, and well-being, contributing to consumers’ overall satisfaction with life.||Fulfilling wants can lead to psychological satisfaction, increased happiness, and a sense of accomplishment, as individuals obtain desired experiences or possessions.|
|Examples||Examples of needs-based products include groceries, water purification systems, basic clothing, and affordable healthcare services.||Examples of wants-based products encompass luxury cars, designer clothing, gourmet dining experiences, high-end electronics, and exotic vacations.|
Understanding needs vs. wants in marketing
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.
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 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.
Key Similarities between Needs, Wants, and Demands in Marketing:
- Consumer-Centric Approach: Both needs, wants, and demands in marketing are centered around understanding and satisfying the desires and preferences of the target audience.
- Value Creation: Meeting needs, fulfilling wants, and catering to demands are all focused on creating value for the consumers, which is essential for business sustainability and growth.
- Emotional Triggers: Emotions play a role in all three aspects of marketing. Needs can be met through logical and rational benefits, wants are often driven by emotional triggers, and demands are influenced by both emotional desires and financial capacity.
- Market Differentiation: Wants and demands provide opportunities for market differentiation and competitive advantage. Understanding consumer wants and demands allows businesses to tailor their marketing strategies to stand out in the market.
Key Differences between Needs, Wants, and Demands in Marketing:
- Nature and Necessity: Needs are essential requirements or functions that consumers expect to be fulfilled for survival or functioning. Wants, on the other hand, are non-essential features that enhance the product’s appeal but are not critical to human survival. Demands are wants that consumers have the financial means to purchase.
- Purchase Decision: Needs are often fulfilled based on logical and rational considerations, as they address basic requirements. Wants and demands, on the other hand, are often driven by emotional factors and desires.
- Product Viability: Meeting consumer needs is crucial for the basic functionality and acceptance of a product in the market. Wants and demands, while contributing to market differentiation, may not always be viable for all target audiences due to financial constraints or other factors.
- Customer Segmentation: Needs are often more universal and apply to a broader target audience. Wants and demands, on the other hand, may vary significantly based on individual preferences, societal norms, and financial capacity, requiring businesses to segment their target audience accordingly.
- Marketing Focus: Marketing strategies for needs are often focused on highlighting the product’s functional benefits and solving specific problems for consumers. For wants and demands, the focus is on emotional appeal, unique features, and creating a sense of desire and urgency.
- Need: Communication device to make calls and send messages.
- Want: High-resolution camera, expansive storage space, sleek design.
- Demand: Latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy model with all advanced features for those who can afford it.
- Need: A vehicle for transportation.
- Want: Heated seats, sunroof, advanced infotainment system.
- Demand: Luxury cars like BMW or Mercedes for consumers with higher income.
- Need: Basic garments for protection and modesty.
- Want: Designer labels, specific styles or trends.
- Demand: High-end brands like Gucci or Prada for fashion-conscious consumers with purchasing power.
- Need: Basic sustenance and nutrition.
- Want: Organic, gluten-free, gourmet dishes.
- Demand: Dining at upscale restaurants or buying premium organic products for those who can afford it.
- Need: Shelter and a place to live.
- Want: A house in a prime location, with modern amenities and design.
- Demand: Luxury villas or penthouses in upscale neighborhoods for those with substantial financial resources.
- Need: Basic forms of relaxation and leisure.
- Want: Streaming subscriptions, gaming consoles, theater experiences.
- Demand: Premium streaming service packages, high-end gaming setups, or VIP concert tickets for those willing to pay more.
- Need: Mode of transportation to reach a destination.
- Want: Comfortable seating, in-flight entertainment, travel packages.
- Demand: First-class airline tickets, luxury cruise packages, or five-star hotel stays for those with a larger travel budget.
- Need: Basic activities for health and well-being.
- Want: Gym memberships, specialized fitness classes, personal trainers.
- Demand: Exclusive fitness clubs, personalized training regimes, or wellness retreats for those who can afford premium services.
- Beauty Products:
- Need: Basic skincare and hygiene products.
- Want: Branded cosmetics, organic skincare lines, specialty products.
- Demand: Luxury beauty brands or professional treatments for consumers with higher spending power.
- Need: Basic schooling and literacy.
- Want: Specialized courses, extracurricular activities, technology-driven learning.
- Demand: Elite institutions, international schooling, or exclusive courses for those who have the means.
- 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.
- Basic Definitions:
- Needs: Essential requirements for survival or basic functionality.
- Wants: Desirable features or qualities that enhance value but aren’t essential.
- Demands: Wants backed by the financial capability to purchase them.
- Role in Marketing:
- Marketing strategies should address both needs (functional benefits) and wants (emotional appeal) to cater to a broader audience.
- Effective campaigns consider the affordability aspect, targeting products or services based on consumer demands.
- Consumer Behavior:
- Purchases based on needs are often logical and rational.
- Purchases influenced by wants are driven by emotions.
- Demands bridge the gap between what a consumer desires and what they can afford.
- Product Differentiation:
- Needs provide the basic foundation of a product or service.
- Wants offer points of differentiation in the marketplace.
- Catering to demands can boost business profitability.
- A car is a need for transportation. A sunroof or heated seats in a car is a want. Luxury cars like BMW or Mercedes cater to the demands of higher-income individuals.
- Strategic Importance:
- Understanding the distinction helps businesses prioritize product features, tailor marketing messages, and segment their target audience effectively.
- Market Viability:
- While addressing needs ensures product relevance, catering to wants and demands can determine the product’s market success and profitability.
- Influence on Marketing Channels:
- Digital marketing, especially, can be tailored to target specific wants and demands, leveraging data analytics to understand consumer preferences better.