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Four Key Drivers of Consumer Need States

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What are need states and why do they matter?

At their core, need states are the expression of a fundamental underlying driver of consumer behaviour and mindsets, which cuts across pre-existing categories and formats. Consumers are increasingly primed to focus on the desired outcome or intention of their consumption, with nuance, and are beginning their purchase and consumption journeys working back from this point. This represents a step change in the way consumers reflect on their product choices, and provides a framework for product development in a world in which established structures have lost resonance.

They are the nexus of two very powerful motivators: the consumer’s immediate perceptions or desire to feel a particular way, and their longer-term identity and aspirations. In other words, a potent combination of proximate physical or mental needs and more deep-seated emotional drivers related to the individual’s sense of self. This makes the need state framework for product formulation and positioning more complex, but also potentially much more compelling from a consumer point of view, and value generative from that of the brand owner.

Moving into a more atomised world of diverging lifestyle patterns, featuring fragmenting use occasions and blurring categories, need states give brand owners a powerful means of segmenting and targeting modern consumer behaviour. In the increasing absence of regimented consumption and traditional use of category or legacy substances (such as nicotine, alcohol and caffeine), product offerings need to address the less structured but arguably more demanding need states mindset. This means making holistic decisions throughout the innovation pipeline, from defined outcome to formulation, through to format and messaging.

What are the key drivers of need states mindsets?

Culture of optimisation

A culture of self-improvement has increasingly come to the fore, particularly amongst younger adults, enhancing the concept of “life hacking” and cementing a belief in the collective power of marginal gains, thereby contributing to the resonance of need states positioning. Consumers are eschewing unfocused consumption for consumption’s sake and instead are seeing product and substance use as part of a holistic, intentional whole directed at achieving a series of goals, often in pursuit of a unified broader end.

Controlling the clock

Notwithstanding the enforced disruption of the pandemic, in recent decades, lifestyles have tended towards greater complexity and a faster pace. For some, this has resulted in a sense of rootlessness and stress, and a resultant desire to manage daily routines, energy fluctuations and mood transitions in a more nuanced and fluid way than legacy occasions and substances are capable of achieving. This has led to an enhanced salience for the increased subtly and outcome targeting of need state propositions.

Stability from within

The world is experiencing heightened levels of geopolitical, economic and environmental instability, with the lives of individuals stripped of the certainties related to employment and housing which had characterised previous generations. With society seemingly unwilling or unable to impose a sense of stability, consumers are more intent on providing stability from within. Engaging in meaningful and outcome-orientated consumption need states is one element of this strategic approach.

Search for natural actives and functional ingredients

Traditionally, the range of substances accessible to the average consumer has been rather limited in many major markets, meaning that the means of addressing ubiquitous lifestyle issues have been crude, with several of the same substances delivered in relatively narrow clusters of formats being used to manage multiple needs. Modern consumers are more conversant with the properties and effects of a wider range of natural, functional actives (such as cannabinoids, mushrooms, guayusa amongst many others), which they are seeking out to improve the sensitivity and efficacy of their own issue management.

For further insights into the current manifestation of need states, their link to ingredients, cross-industry impact and case studies, access Euromonitor International’s recent briefing Consumer Need States and Mindful Mindsets Across FMCG.


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