THE PARADIGM OF 'LIKES' AND 'NEEDS'

In today’s dynamic and competitive business environment, organizations are striving hard to find their sustainable strategy for growth and stick to it. In many cases, the strategy gets obsolete before it is put into practice because of factors like change in customer needs, emergence of new technology, rise of new competitor etc. In such a scenario, it gets all the more important to feel the pulse of the end customer well in time and proactively act on it.


The two parameters that drive the interest of the customer in the company’s product or service to a large extent are ‘liking’ to the product and ‘need’ for the product. 

Each organization is bound to have the products lying at different levels of ‘likes’ and ‘needs’ in their portfolio. As the time progresses these products keep changing their level of liking and need based on customers’ perceptions and expectations. The success of the organization thus largely depends on the extent to which their customers like to use the product/service and the extent to which they need it. 




1. LOW like and LOW need

The product or a service can fall in this category because of one or more of the following reasons:


1. Misalignment between the initial concept and the final product 

2. Demand estimated for the product is catered by a strong substitute with a better value proposition 
3. The product is not able to cope up with the customer expectations build over time 

As mobile phones came into picture in 1990s, ‘pager’ went into a category of low like and low need because the expectation of the people had gone beyond merely receiving the text messages and pager was limited to its conventional single application. The mobiles phone provided a higher personal touch by enabling them hear the voice of their loved ones and also a good number of useful applications along with that. For the products in this cell, the organizations need to re-define their product value proposition and take a call whether to develop the product further to align it with the market needs and liking or come up with an entirely new concept while divesting from the existing product.


2. HIGH like and LOW need


The product or a service can fall in this category because of the following reasons:

1. Strong desire to experience the product/service 
2. Product development cycle is shorter than customer’s Expectation Change Time (ECT)[1]
3. The product is established in the market for a long time and customers are too conventional to change to a better product available 
4. The product acts as status symbol or a fashion statement 

Constraints like price, health, non accessibility etc put the product into this category at times. Fast food restaurants, Adventurous tours and travel agents, Luxurious cars etc are all highly liked product with no real need at first place.

Also products like ‘Colgate’ tooth paste, enjoyed the maximum market share in spite of better products in the market because customers were so much used to the product that they didn’t want to shift to even a better tooth-paste that had already created higher levels of ‘need’ like ‘long lasting freshness’, ‘nice odour’ etc.

The success of such product/services lies in how they can create a need for the product and are able to make the customer understand and feel the need. The need can be ‘networking need (LinkedIn)’, ‘enjoyment need (Disney)’, ‘status need (Audi)’ or anything without which a customer feels incomplete. And once a need is created, the product is bound to succeed as it already has a high level of liking.


3. LOW like and HIGH need


The product or a service can fall into this cell because of one or more of the following reasons:

1. The product is important for survival 
2. Product monopoly 
3. Regulatory requirements that enforce the use of the product/service. 
The product is efficient enough to save time or money for the customer for other actions 

As per the lean principles under Japanese philosophies any type of search is a Non value adding activity in the value chain. So any action that vanishes/simplifies/guides the search for any information or product becomes a need and thus gains importance. Search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing etc have provided a platform for people to search efficiently and quickly on the internet and thus serves the needs (of getting the right information) of the customers. In spite of the fact whether we like searching or not, we have to do it whenever we need what we are looking for.

Another big example is the Pharmaceutical Industry. Nobody likes to have medicines but then nobody can afford to ignore them, when sick. The success of any pharmaceutical product is totally dependent on the extent of need it creates through the benefit it brings to the consumer.

For a product in this cell it becomes necessary to titivate the product features while maintaining the same foundation to attract customers and make them ‘like’ the product/service. Instant and click-free search facility in Google, taste or ease of use in pharmaceutical products, are all such add-ons that add more and more value to the basic product and make them more likeable and user friendly.


4. HIGH like and HIGH need


This is the ultimate level at which the product strives to reach during its product life cycle. The following accounts the reasons for a product or service to be in this cell:

1. The product/service is quickly adaptable to the business dynamics with product development time lesser than ECT 
2. It offers the best value proposition in the segment 
3. It is well established and has the potential to cater tomorrow’s demands today 

Almost no product/service can remain in this cell throughout the life cycle. Although the product might enjoy the liberty of being in this cell till the time it is competitively responsive to new substitutes and rising customer expectations. Websites like Facebook, Google, LinkedIn are moving towards higher levels of likes and needs with their every move. 

In a particular customer segment, Apple products (iPhone, iPad etc) currently enjoy being a ‘high like’ and ‘high need’ product. There is a class of people (like business executive) who have strong desire (thus liking) of this product and they also need it to maintain their status in their circle. 

For the product/service in this cell, the biggest challenge for the companies is to sustain the position of their product/service through continuous research, development and innovation. There is a trade-off between investments in sustaining the current product/service at its position and creating new products to replace the obsolete ones. 

An organization may employ different strategies for different product/services i.e. a single organization can occupy different cells in the framework above and organizations may transition to other cells over time by following distinctive strategies.

*****

- Gaurav Chawla


[1] Expectation Change Time is the time frame in which customer’s expectations from the product climb to a higher level thereby demanding more out of the product.

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