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Mary Minnick, the relatively new CMO of Coke, likes to talk about 10 primal "need states" (e.g., hunger and thirst, health and beauty, etc.) in understanding the triggers around a customer purchasing one of Coke's products, according to an interesting article I read in in BusinessWeek this week....


It's not anything new per se (think of segmenting by needs, need payoffs, Maslow's hierarchy, etc.), but I like the hypotheses that could come out of the thought process, which could be tested with any prospect/customer in any industry.
It gets to the question of why people (B2B or B2C) purchase anything. Most people say it's to satisfy some need. However, we also know that people have "wants," like a new Lexus (or to retain the pre-eminent strategy firm), which goes beyond a need for transportation.
But if we drill-down even more, we find that the "want" is really around certain ego needs, like wanting to impress people or to show off one's "success." Ultimately, we can probably get down to a primal need state with each "want." A lot of people talk about needs and wants, but it seems that it's just a matter of layers and peeling-the-onion to get to a real need.
Anyway, I think each business can probably identify, isolate, and intensify the various need states that its prospects/customers have, similar to Coke. I know there are a finite number of meaningful "buckets" that apply - it's probably less than 20 and more than 1.
Then, each need state discovery process can be used to identify unmet needs, new need markets, and new offerings to satisfy some latent or unfulfilled needs. Getting better "health and beauty" (think green tea or an antioxidant-rich juice drink) out of a beverage begins to seem reasonable and aligned to our basic, fundamental needs.
In the end it's just the "find a need and fill it" adage with some added overhead and process. Nevertheless, becoming a "need state" analyst is probably time well spent, as adages and platitudes are great to say, but you still got a lot of work to do –
MP
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I work as a Principal Consultant for a small sales and marketing consultancy. I help companies (small to large) to define their "story," determine their targets, refine their communication mix, codify their best practices, engage in business conversations, and reinforce and measure each component. I take a more holistic vs. localized approach. Most problems have downstream impacts and upstream drivers.I like to run, write and read. I used to work as a School Psychologist in the mid 90's.