The Trap of Created Needs

One basic principle of business is to avoid selling a totally new product because you first have to create a “need ” for a new product (either real or imagined) in the mind of potential buyers before they will even think about buying. Doing that is difficult. Instead, successful business people usually choose to develop products that are “new and improved.”

Why Marketers Create “Needs”

The inventor of the Segway™ thought he would revolutionize the transportation industry overnight, it seemed, from early interviews I heard with him. But even Amazon promotion didn’t achieve that goal.

That is not to say there is not a great future for this amazing vehicle. It is just to say that if a product is really new and different, the seller has to create a market by creating a need in the mind of potential buyers.

The Segway™ people have been doing this by focusing on particular groups of potential buyers, such as police and security operations and educating them about the potential use of the vehicle. This need creation is a vital part of marketing new products.

Creating Imaginary Needs

Strangely, it seems to be as easy to create an imaginary need as it is to create a real one. For example, who really needs to have a particular brand name on their clothes? But many people seem to think they really need a particular brand of this or that product.

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There can be a real difference in some products, perhaps. But, as a young man I worked at a supplier that put forty-eight different brand names, some well known and some not so well known, all on the same products.

The truth is that we need to buy quality products sometimes, but we do not need to buy particular brands. That is a manufactured need.

Unfortunately, many of us buy things we actually do not need at all. For example, I read an article by a business consultant (this was written a few years ago when people still took orders on paper with a pencil) whose young client was showing him around a new office where he found many items he considered a great waste.

The young business man proudly pointed out a new electric pencil sharpener. The consultant asked to see his order book. It was empty, no sales yet. So why did he need an electric pencil sharpener? So sometimes imaginary needs are created by creating a sense of urgency to buy now when the need only might materialize in the future.

Buying for Unrealistic Anticipated Needs

There is nothing wrong with buying things we need. There is really nothing wrong with buying some things we just want, either.

There is a problem, however, with the fact that most people keep buying things they think they need when they really do not—false needs—just because the marketing that bombards us day and night creates a need in their minds that is not real.

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I have to confess being too often guilty of falling into this trap. A few years ago I thought I needed the electronic equipment to copy all my VCR tapes onto DVD’s. If I had waited until I was really ready to start doing the work I would still be waiting. With more money in the bank.

If I wanted to tell the whole truth, I have actually thrown away items that became obsolete before I developed a real need to use them. This is not smart. It certainly is not good financial management.

Avoid the Lure of Created Needs

It should not be hard to overcome this trap. We only need to ask honestly before spending money whether it meets a real need or not.

Is it something we honestly need today or is the purchase something we might need tomorrow, or a false need altogether? If it is not an honest and immediate need, there is rarely a need at all to buy now.

So don’t.

The Danger of False Needs

The more significant problem is not that we buy things, even things we don’t really need. If that were the only issue it might not be so bad.

The real problem is that we spend money on imagined needs when real needs go unattended and that we buy things we only think we need when we do not have the money, trapping ourselves with debt.

We do need to pay off those credit cards. We do need to save for necessary major purchases. We do need to invest in our retirement account.

The important thing is to recognize marketing for what it is, creating needs, often false needs. To make intelligent choices with our money it is essential to avoid letting the marketing skills of others to unreasonably affect our decisions, especially in causing us to feel needs that are not real.

Eliminate All Created Needs

As an action step article, this one only requires mentally latching onto this concept and deciding that starting now you will examine every purchasing decision to determine that a real need exists, not a created need. Of course, there also needs to be a decision not to buy if there is only a “fabricated” need.