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The HOLE in the hole

If you want marketing immortality, come up with a quote like this by Ted Levitt:

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

It’s over 50 years old now and still going strong. Even Seth Godin uses it in his new book, ‘This Is Marketing’.

But he thinks Levitt didn’t go far enough because nobody actually wants a hole. What they want is a shelf on the wall.

And what they really want is how they’ll feel once that shelf is up.

Seth has a number of hypotheses for this.

The satisfaction of knowing they did it themselves.

The sense of order once they’ve put everything on the shelf.

The increase in status when their spouse admires their handiwork.

The peace of mind of knowing the bedroom is now safe and clean.

I reckon Seth hasn’t gone far enough either.

What about having the rest of Sunday off?

Or the pleasure of checking the shelf is spirit-level-straight?

Or the fact the bedroom has gone back to being a bedroom?

Or thinking about the money you saved not having to get someone in?

Put that all together and you have yourself a Need Map. The implicit needs, that is. The ones that matter most if you want to build an emotional connection.

But the job’s not done once the Map is built. The real question is which is the need for your brand to fulfil.

You can’t target them all. Then you’ll end up with a positioning based on a generic need. You’ll be back to a hole in the wall.

You probably can’t do it by segmenting people. Unfortunately, humans are too complex for that. We all have multiple needs.

So which hole in the head are you going to fill?

The one where your brand currently sits?

The one where there’s clear white space?

Or the one where there’s a big need and the competition in that space could be out-manoeuvred?

It’s up to you. Decision time. That’s what strategy is all about.

Of course, you could take it even further. As another famous quote goes, “people don’t buy products, they buy better versions of themselves”.

So what is it that you really, really want from getting that shelf up on the wall?

The thing is, a Need Map only makes sense if you understand the need at its centre. The individual needs are then different expressions of that need.

Perhaps the hole in the middle of the hole is simply the desire to do something. Something of value. Something that makes a difference.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said the purpose of life is not to be happy, it is to be useful.

And he looked upon all that he had made and saw that it was good.

Maybe that’s a bit too far.

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