Marketing Talk: Does Marketing Create a Need or Simply Expose it? Discuss.

You Need a ThneedTurns out a popular search on our site is “how do you create a need in marketing?” Our blog manager asked me to write a post to address the question. My first thought was "OK, that's a little vague." So I googled it. Turns out this philosophical topic is heavily debated online. My second thought was "Uh oh."

Does marketing create a need or does the need already exist and marketing uncovers it?

Since there doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer, I thought I'd set the stage for some more discussion. I'm clearly not an expert on this but here's what I think:

  • Customers and prospects have needs.
  • Marketing identifies or uncovers those needs through market research (surveys, focus groups, and competitive analysis).
  • Then its marketing's job to expose (or exploit?) those needs and communicate the value of potential solutions.

New product features and benefits help address needs. Emotion then creates desire (Just look at the company Apple – do we really all "need" an iPad? We certainly all desire one.)

So how does marketing uncover the need?

One tactic that is often used is the concept of "Content Marketing." All the buzz these days, Content Marketing is really just another way of getting information in front of the consumer at the right time, in the right way and at the right stage of the research and buying cycle. Or at least that's what I think. (See more on this at  Why Every Small Business Needs to be in the Content Marketing Business).

In the research stage you don’t want to sell – you want to inform and educate. Marketing can uncover a need by creating and distributing thought-provoking content in the form of white papers, webinar content, email marketing, ebooks, and blog posts. They may have analysts write about relevant data and best practices. They may exhibit at tradeshows and demo products that will address the consumers need. And especially in the B2B world, creating a little bit of anxiety by challenging the status quo is a way to create/uncover need (vis-a-visa "The Challenger Sale" for example). 

So what do you think? Does marketing create or uncover a need? And what tactics do you use to do it? Let me know below.

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