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Needs vs Wants: An Epic Marketing Showdown

During my final year of college I ran into a rather serious health problem.

For weeks a terrible tooth in the back of my mouth began to decay.


I knew early on that I needed help, but I ignored the warning signs mainly because I was too ashamed to ask my parents for money to get it fixed.

After summoning the courage to call my parents for help, an appointment was made at the local dentist office.

The day of the surgery came, and I arrived 10 minutes early to get things over with.

The receptionist called me back, and I took my place on the leather blue seat as the dentist fired up his drill (I think he secretly enjoyed this).

Right as the dentist lowered his drill and clamped my cheeks apart to fix my problem, the office literally lost power.

I walked back to the waiting room where the receptionist gave me a choice: I could wait until the power kicked on to finish my operation, or I could take free movie tickets to Jurassic World for my troubles.

Rationally, I knew that I needed the surgery very soon. But I took the tickets because I wanted to have fun!

Reason vs emotion: an eternal battle

This story perfectly illustrated the duality within each of us.

Rationally I knew that I needed the surgery to protect my health. But emotionally, I felt ashamed to ask for help and for being in this mess the the first place.

Plus, watching a movie on the big screen was a lot more fun than sitting in a blue leather chair to get drilled by a middle-aged balding man.

I wanted to go to a movie even at the expense of some momentary pain.

Reason and emotion are closely related to both needs and wants.
Needs: basic necessities that sustain life (food, clothing, shelter)
Our rational mind knows what we need. But we don't make decisions based on reason alone.

That's the problem with most marketing strategies. You might think that if your selling to a business you need to sound professional and meet the needs of the business.

But every business is run by people.

And people use emotions to make decisions often before ration comes into play.

Sell wants before needs

Have you ever been to a grocery store and observed this scene?

Child: Mommy, I NEED that cereal.

Mommy: We already have cereal at home Johnny

Child: But I NEED that cereal today!

What is the child really saying? I WANT that box of cereal with the unicorn on it!

Wants are actually more powerful than needs. A basic need is food, and broccoli and beef would do the trick.

But most of us don't like broccoli. We want ice cream and cake and steak instead.

The problem with selling needs is often that its a race to the bottom.

When you target a need your trying to sell a product in a sea of competition. If the consumer knows they can buy a similar product for less they will every time.

It's much smarter to focus on wants. Internet, phone, TV, and cars are all wants.

But that didn't stop Comcast, Apple, Samsung, and Toyota from making unique products to match those wants.

When your product is unique AND meets your customers wants it can't be easily copied. That's where true value lives.

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