Research tools for innovation

Marrying needs with methods

It’s a little known fact that Maslow admitted he was wrong about needs.

In fact, there's a scale of need in marketing, and different types of research suit each.

There’s a lot more than focus groups and basic semiotics.

In this section you’ll understand which methods fit these needs, and the different project types.

The four types of need

There are four types of need.  And let's use coffee as an example – think of the evolution of coffee and its ‘disintermediation’.

Overtbetter tasting instant coffee

Covert – better ‘on the run’ coffee cups

Latent – creating a coffee culture

Created – creating a home hot beverage system

Overt need

So let’s understand these needs. Overt needs are ones that people can readily tell you about, and let’s stick with the coffee example.

If you asked people how to improve coffee, they'd tell you about improving flavours, which you can test using standard research techniques like focus groups and depths.

Covert need

Now imagine the time when there weren't any good home coffee machines.

A covert need is one where behaviour points to the answer, but there’s a problem gap as the need isn’t being plugged.

Before coffee take-aways with lids, there were foam cups with a lid and no opening – but there was a need to stop spillage, it just wasn’t obvious to people. .

If you’d asked people in focus groups, they’d most likely just say they were annoying, but wouldn’t have come up with a solution.

This type of need is best understood by ethnography, followed by concept development.

Latent need

These are identifiable opportunities that are observed by looking at the data on behaviours with fans of a category.  And you’ve got to do two things.

You’ve got to look at how fans of a category are behaving:  If you’d done that around coffee you would have found that they liked making filter coffee, and had a machine at home.

You’d also find they were fans of coffee in countries with a superior coffee culture.

But it’s not enough to point out what ‘edgy’ people are doing: You’ve got to correlate it with other data.

In this case, sales of ‘more interesting’ instant coffee were starting to rise rapidly – putting these two pieces together you have the basis of a latent need which would flow into becoming coffee shops.

Created need

Created needs are the hardest to tap into.

They're needs that no-one has asked for: it’s here where Henry Ford said "If I had asked what people want from transport, they'd have asked for a faster horse."

Well this is unfair.  Consumers can co-create new products and services.

If they're people who are trained in de Bono techniques and then asked to do some structured ideation.

We’ve done this work and it’s lead to the launch of drinks that outsell Coke. 



The table below shows how you use the different types of qual to meet each need.  We'll discuss each qual type below.