Needs Vs Wants – Understanding the Difference In Marketing

There are some things that are essential or are a necessity. And then there are things people would love to own or experience. People use two terms – needs and wants – interchangeably for both these things.

But there’s a difference. One should clearly understand the difference between the two, irrespective of whether they are the customer or the marketer.

What Is A Need?

A need is a requirement arising out of a necessity that is essential for an individual to exist or live a healthy life.

Consider it to be an essential element of life whose deficiency may lead to adverse outcomes. Needs are drivers of people’s actions. Almost all actions can be considered as originating in the quest for satisfying or actualising needs.

The most basic needs examples include food, water, rest, clothing, shelter, health, and reproduction. Without them, an individual might not exist.

But there are other needs that do arise from necessities but are not vital to survival. Such needs come in the later sections of the need hierarchy and include safety needs like protection from violence and theft, emotional stability; love and belonging needs like friendships and family bonds; esteem needs like self-respect; and self-actualisation needs like the fulfilment of full potential as a person.

Need = Requirement

Characteristics Of Needs

  • Needs are essential: They are necessary for survival or to prevent adverse outcomes.
  • They’re essentially universal: Usually, needs are common for everyone, like everyone requires food, water, air, etc.
  • They may be stimulated by external or internal factors: External factors like climate change and internal factors like disability might stimulate a new need within an individual.
  • Priorities may be deferred: Needs work in a hierarchy. Higher level needs only come into play after lower level and more important needs are fulfilled.
  • Needs are interrelated: Each fulfilled need gives rise to a new need till the individual reaches the self-actualisation level.

What Is A Want?

A want is a requirement arising out of the desire, aspiration, or motivation of an individual to get satisfaction.

These are elements that an individual desires but could live without. Furthermore, these requirements might change frequently depending upon several factors like surroundings, perception, environment, culture, and even age.

Some examples of wants include entertainment, travel, electronic devices, fashion, etc.

Want = Desire

Characteristics Of Wants

  • Wants are unlimited: Wants arise from experience and the available choices. Hence, they can be unlimited.
  • They arise from needs: Wants usually stem from basic needs. For example, a want to buy a specific brand shoe arises from the need to have shoes.
  • Wants compete with each other: Unlike needs, wants don’t work in a hierarchy. They compete with each other over the limited resources of the individual.
  • Wants are not universal: Different individuals may have different wants depending upon their experiences, available choices, and other factors.

Needs vs Wants

Needs are requirements that needs to be fulfilled in order to exist or thrive.
Wants are requirements arising out of desires that are not necessary for survival or thriving.
Desire, aspiration, or motivation.
May remain constant over time
May change with time
May result in extreme events like disease, death, or extinction.
May result in sadness, regret, or disappointment.

What Is Demand?

When a need or a want is backed by buying power, they become demands. That is, when a customer requires resources and is ready to pay for it, they create a demand that requires a supply in the market.

This demand is a combination of both needs and wants and is the chief driver of the economy.

Need Vs Want Vs Demand In Marketing

In marketing, a need is the consumer’s desire to get functional utility out of an offering. It’s the desire for the offering’s specific benefit that helps the consumer get the job done.

On the other hand, a want is a desire for offerings or benefits that are not necessary.

For example, food is a consumer need. However, a chicken burger is considered a consumer want, as it is not necessary in order to live.

Every marketer starts their marketing journey by developing a product that fulfils the need of the customer. Once the need is satisfied, the offering gets features, benefits, and other add-ons to satisfy the wants.

Every offering can be converted into satisfying a need and a want. For a shoe brand, developing shoes that satiate the need of having footwear receives the most priority, followed by satiating wants of building a good brand around that offering, positioning it as a casual or formal wear, etc.

When needs and wants are combined to form an offering, they result in a supply good enough to fulfil demand.

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