Wants vs Needs — A Business Update

In consumer marketing, companies have long capitalized on people’s willingness to stretch their definition of wants into the need category.  We have lots of vernacular to show us that that this sort of thinking is widespread:

  • “eat dessert first”
  • “you deserve a break today”
  • “retail therapy”
  • “spoil yourself”
  • “I need 500 cable channels to get the one I want…”

You can probably think of dozens more examples of how we have embraced “carpe diem” to justify our consumerism.  Then came the Great Recession, and “the new normal” that has diminished our spending habits–not only for our wish lists, but even for necessities.

What I’ve noticed lately is that this attitude of making due with less has also carried over into our business lives.

Recently, I came across this blog post “The Could and Need Effect” by Danny Brown.  The post is a concise example of how the differentiation between wants and needs has become a decision tree for “coulds” and “needs” in business when deciding on courses of action.  One example that Brown gives is: “This bill could wait until next week. I need to pay this bill to keep my business open.”

There is a cost to business, just as there is for a consumer, but usually it’s a more hidden cost of time and opportunity trade-offs.  Are these decisions to simplify becoming the “new normal” of business today?

It’s interesting that during this economic downturn, that more of us are assessing the costs to intangibles, as well as tangible items.




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