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The MAP of all maps

Hardly a project goes by without me building a Need Map.


Whether it’s discovering insights into people’s behaviour or developing a brand positioning, it’s the bedrock of my approach.


That means I now have a whole lot of maps. Five more and Closer to Brands will reach a hundred, my goal for 2024.


So which needs do you reckon have come up the most? Time for an end-of-year audit.


Just to explain, all Need Maps have the same basic construction.


There are two axes - one relates to your personality (outer-directed at the top, inner-directed at the bottom), the other the situation you’re in (standing apart to one side, fitting in the other). Of course, we all move up and down and side to side in different situations.


The map is then divided into four, six or eight segments. There are no divisions in reality, everything’s a continuum. The segments also relate to needs not people, which presents a challenge when using Need Maps for targeting.


And our particular view is that a Need Map only makes sense if you first define the central need in the ‘world’ you’re in. The individual needs are actually different expressions of that central need. When you want this, you need to feel that.


Of course, for a Need Map to be of use to you, you have to believe that people’s brand choices are driven by their deeper needs. Some people prefer to think in terms of the end result, mental availability.


You also have to want your brand to make an emotional connection. Not everyone does. For some it’s all about attention and assets.


Anyway, back to the audit.


There are plenty of need descriptions I’ve only ever used once.


Power, Knowledge, Energy, Escape, Support, Involvement, Authority, Combativeness, Challenge, Acuity, Partnership, Transportation, Activation, Inclusion, Specialness.


Others, it’s been a handful of times. Reward, Boost, Intimacy, Interaction, Abandonment, Fun, Indulgence, Exploration, Competence, Release, Distance.


Maybe with some of these I was trying too hard to find a unique word.


But looking back, some were spot on. Like Abandonment in relation to premium desserts. Or Combativeness when searching out the best car insurance deal. Or Distance around looking after pets, believe it or not.


Then there’s the middle of the pack.


Sometimes it really does vary. Is it Independence or Individuality or Status or Sophistication or Achievement or Recognition?


Or how about Connection vs. Affiliation vs. Togetherness vs. Sociability vs. Generosity?


Other times it’s the old debate - is it more about Harmony or Nurturance, Bonding or Devotion? It depends.


But it can be about picking the best word to describe similar feelings. Reassurance? Familiarity? Safety? Security? Comfort? Contentment? Retreat?


With one area of the Need Map it took a while for the penny to drop. I’d often spend my time deciding between Stimulation and Adventure. Other times it was more about Sustenance or Performance.


Then I realised how often it was Empowerment. Maybe at some point that need did start to become more prominent. I wonder. The word has certainly become common currency.


One interesting thing did emerge from my review.


If there’s a need to stay on top of things or be efficient or organized or feel disciplined or sensible or restrained or composed, I always call it Control. Not control of others, control of yourself.


And when it’s the other end of the spectrum and you want to feel carefree or uninhibited or a sense of pleasure or release or like you can forget about things, I call it Freedom. The other side of the coin.


That just leaves one area. When you want to feel knowledgeable and well-informed, competent, curious, thinking things through, in the know. For me, that’s Discernment. It’s a blessing and a curse, I can tell you.


So if there were ever to be a map of maps, for me it would have to include the needs for Control, Freedom and Discernment. On the law of averages, there would then be Status, Harmony, Affiliation, Reassurance and, yes, Empowerment.


It doesn’t work like that, though. There’s no one-size-fits-all. You need a Need Map tailored to your brand’s world.


Anyway, what would be the central need in a Need Map of everything? Now there’s a question. What is it we all want when choosing a brand?


And there was me wanting a break over Christmas.


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