What Are Your Consumers’ Unmet Emotional Needs?

Is your business so focussed on the next new big product development that you have a blindspot to opportunity gaps which revolve around consumers’ emotional needs?

Emotional (re)positioning of a brand can remove the pressure for continuous product innovation and differentiation without the need for NPD. In this article, we highlight the opportunities from focusing on brand essence and personality to achieve growth, solely through finding the emotional unmet needs of consumers in your category.

The pressure to innovate

Much has been written on the art of better Innovation:  Often there’s a focus on changing organisational structures and mindsets to increase innovative thinking; increasing pressure to find truly innovative ways of solving consumer problems with radically different product ideas and technical solutions. Against this backdrop new innovative emotional territories tend to be forgotten or devalued.

Beyond functional benefits

Yet, driving a brand through an untapped and innovative emotional positioning can generate some incredible results. 

The Harvard Business Review presented an analysis illustrating that emotionally connected consumers are 53% more valuable to a brand that those just functionally satisfied. This rises to 103% for household cleaning products – the FMCG category they assessed.

chart graph

Many brands have found highly innovative ways to connect with consumers’ emotional needs, especially in saturated categories, purely through positioning (i.e. no real changes to product format or packaging). Below are some examples.

Leading the way

Dorset Cereals is a great example of a brand that blew apart the muesli marketplace by tapping into into consumers’ unmet emotional needs for a closer and more authentic connection with nature.    

Dorset cereal boxes sitting on a table outside with a bowl already poured

Although Method has a strong USP (free of harmful ingredients), it is its emotional positioning that has captured people’s hearts and minds. Who would have thought people wanted the badging of beautifully designed detergents that are more akin to toiletries?

different method all purpose sprays each in a different colour

An interesting, quirky positioning has been found by Tyrrells Potato Crisps. They have tapped into the eccentricity of quintessential Englishness. It’s a visual and emotional positioning that breaks all the usual crisp brand connections around provenance or ingredients.

different flavours of tyrrells crisps hanging on a line with wooden pegs

Another brand to single-handedly drive category growth recently has been Pukka. Tea was a category that revolved around tradition and expertise. Instead Pukka found that as tea is often on display in peoples’ kitchens there was a consumer desire for design and art that could be proudly displayed.

pukka tea range - boxes in a row different colours orange green blue pink and red

Australian brand Moxie has looked at the sanitary protection category, dominated by the next latest functional advancement, and turned it on its head. They have found a way to embrace the emotional needs around femininity and discreteness. It even has cute tins to solve handbag issues. 

australian-makeup, a range of make up in boxes with pin stripes, pink, peach and green coloured with black bows

All these brands have recognised the value in meeting consumers’ emotional and social needs as well as their functional ones. They illustrate that some of the most successful product launches haven’t revolutionised the consumer’s product experience, they’ve simply engaged consumers in a new and meaningful way emotionally.

In summary…

There are those who argue that meeting the consumer’s functional product needs takes precedence. Whilst we don’t disagree that performing well on the hygiene factors of a category is essential, we would suggest that all benefits are relative and consumers will trade them off against one another – including the emotional pull of a fantastic design, the pleasure of owning something pretty, and the social status achieved when showing up with a cool brand.

Let’s be clear; great design and an emotional positioning will never make up for a poor quality product. But if you are looking for a cost effective and comparatively quick innovation initiative rather than fretting about the next revolutionary product innovation, why not spend some time digging to see if there any category gaps in consumers’ unmet emotional needs?