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About Customer Needs Analysis

Customer needs analysis is used in a variety of product and brand management contexts,
including Concept Development, development of the Core Product Concept, Product
Development, Value Analysis, and Means-End Analysis (also known as Value Analysis, Value
Chain Analysis, or Customer Value Analysis).
Our customer needs analysis surveys are developed to provide the most in depth understanding
of your market and customers.

Means-End Approach
Our rigorous approach to studying the customer will help any company understand the
customers’ needs and their position in the overall market. Customer needs analysis is a
means-end approach, meaning that product purchase decisions are the means to a
value based goal or state. This powerful research technique has been used to place US
presidents into office, successfully re-image industries, achieve competitive advantage
over the competition through target advertising messages, and to design innovative and
successful new products.

Means-end analysis focuses on developing a core dimension mapping of the three part
linkage that exists between product features or attributes, the functional and psycho-
social product benefits or consequences derived from those attributes, and the personal
(functional, physical, financial, social, and psychological) values that add importance to
the underlying benefits (positive and negative consequences) of purchase.

One study for the development of a new bank credit card found that nine attributes were
critical to consumers considering a new card: no annual fee, status, low interest rate,
added value features, acceptance, credit limit, ability to carry a balance, location of the
sponsoring bank, and availability. These attributes were found to be linked to 12
benefits (consequences) that were perceived as part of card usage: not feeling cheated,
independence, convenience, dependability, and saving money.

Approaches Used to Elicit Brand

Top-of-Mind Imaging
Positive and negative associations for the brand or product category are elicited, along with
reasons why the characteristic is viewed that way. Top-of-mind studies are used to uncover the
attributes and consequences that distinguish the characteristic.

Brand Category Analysis

Identifies similar and dissimilar brand groupings within a product category and the reasons for
this perceived similarity or dissimilarity. The primary reasons, most important attributes, and
most representative brands are identified and attributes and consequences are laddered.

Contextual Environment Scan

The usage context for a brand or product is critical in marketing. Physical occasions (place, time,
people), or need state occasions (relaxing, rejuvenating, building relationships, feeling powerful,
reducing stress, and getting organized) may exist. A brand or product is associated with a usage
context that is critical in effective positioning and advertising.

Preference-Usage/Similarity-Dissimilarity Analysis
Comparing brands based on personal preference or usage is a common distinguishing point for
brands. Similarity and dissimilarity groupings also provide a direct method of distinguishing
between brands. Success critical attributes and consequences are identified that lead to higher
market performance.

Purchase and Consumption Timing

Issues are often related to product or brand choice and usage. For example, a respondent might
be asked to identify products used for relief of a stuffy nose… across several stages like onset,
full-blown, and on-the-mend, or daytime and nighttime. Brand preference is identified for each
time-related stage.
Usage Trends
Past and expected future usage of a brand is instrumental in identifying attributes and
consequences that lead to different usage patterns. For example, respondents may be asked,
“Will this brand be used more often, less often, or about the same as you have used it in the
past?” Then, reasons for increased, decreased, or unchanged usage are determined. The follow-
up analysis of reasons for trends produces a vivid insight into market drivers and potential areas
of market growth.

Product or Brand Substitution Analysis

Product and brand substitution methods elicit the degree of similarity of perceived attributes and
consequences associated with usage. When questions are asked about the degree of
substitutability, attributes and consequences are discovered that inhibit or promote substitution
(attributes or consequences that need to be added or removed for substitution or trial to occur).
For an unfamiliar brand, the respondent first can sample or be given a description of the brand,
followed by questions like: how likely would you be to substitute (name of the new brand) for
your current brand for this occasion—why is that?

Alternative Usage Occasions

Alternative uses are presented to the respondent to determine if and why the brand is present or
absent from the choice set. Questions might be phrased to ask: Why would you consider using
Brand A for this occasion, or What is keeping you from using Brand A for this occasion now?
Both positive reasons why a brand fits a new occasion and negative reasons why it does not fit
can be elicited. Alternative usage occasion analysis identifies market segments and details how
to approach them.
Competition is the rivalry between companies selling similar products and services with the goal of
achieving revenue, profit, and market-share growth. Companies strive to increase sales volume by
utilizing the 4 components of the marketing mix, also referred to as the 4P's: product, place,
promotion, and place.
Some of the early steps in designing a successful marketing strategy include knowing and
understanding your competition. Consequently, if you are not current on who the competition is, it
becomes likely that another firm can provide a competitive advantage, such as product offerings at
lower prices or value added benefits. Identifying your competition and staying current with their
products and services and critical to remain competitive in the market.

I was reading The Wall Street Journal one morning about food makers using mobile games to market
to children. It struck me that content marketing has a major effect on how some companies,
especially publishers and media companies, must regard their competition. (It also struck me that my
kids need to spend less time on the iPad, but I digress.)

So, I thought I would use that article as inspiration for an example to teach a quick marketing 101
lesson on the three types of competitors you must account for when marketing your product or
service. For the sake of this blog post, our company is Spacely Games, and we make mobile games
aimed at children.
I also got some input from Paul Clowe, Sr. Director of Finance & Operations, MECLABS, who has
recently conducted competitive research here at MECLABS.

Click to enlarge
Direct Competitors

A direct competitor is “someone that offers the same products, with the same end game,” Paul said.
“They make money from the same thing you do.”

A direct competitor is probably what most commonly comes to mind when you think of the word
“competition.” When I was a communications consultant, I used to work with the competitive sales
office of an IT company. They focused on direct competitors – creating a win/loss report for every deal
where the sales team went head-to-head against other IT companies offering similar products and

Spacely Games Example: In this case, the direct competitor is Zynga. They also make games aimed at
children, and seek to derive revenue directly from those games.

Indirect Competitors

“Indirect competitors offer the same stuff but have a different goal,” Paul said. “They don’t drive
revenue the same way.”
Here’s where content marketing can really have an impact. Essentially, a company’s marketing can
compete with your paid product, as we’ll see in the example …

Spacely Games Example: SuperPretzel is an indirect competitor of Spacely Games. While it derives
revenue from selling soft pretzels and not software, it produces a free mobile game called
“SuperPretzel Factory” as part of its content marketing that children could choose to play instead of
the paid offerings from Spacely Games.

Replacement Competitors

“A replacement competitor is something someone could do instead of choose your product,” Paul
remarked. “But they’re using the same resources they could have committed to your product.”

These are the most challenging competitors to identify. However, we must remember that our
customers define our competition. After all, the competition is simply the other choices they may
choose to make. So we must interview customers, listen to their social media conversations, and
understand macro trends to gain an understanding of what choices they are really making.

Spacely Games Example: The Magic Tree House series of children’s books is a replacement competitor
for Spacely Games. Essentially, if children have a free hour in their day, they can either decide
to download a game or to read a book.

Of course, I’m being a little idealistic assuming the average 8-year-old in 2012 is really considering
reading a book instead of playing a mobile game, but that’s my end point. You have to be a bit of an
anthropologist and really study your customers to determine what they consider as replacement
competition for your products and services.

So does an 8-year-old consider a book as competition for a mobile game? I’m guessing no. However,
does a major influencer on that purchase decision (in this case, the parent) consider a book to be a
replacement competitor? Well, this parent certainly does.
Types of Competitors
Direct Competitors
A direct competitor is another company that offers the same products and services aimed at the
same target market and customer base, with the same goal of profit and market-share growth. A
direct competitor is what typically comes to mind when you refer to the term 'competition,' and
usually the type that draws the most focus from company's when designing strategies.
Customers will shop for a variety of price points, locations, service levels, and product features when
determining their purchase. In comparison, though, customers will not similarly choose the same mix
of these options - and this is where competition becomes a factor. Recognizing where your
competition is positioned is a key factor in understanding the potential your business solutions can

Indirect Competitors
Indirect competitor is another company that offers the same products and services, much like direct
competitors; however, the same end goals are different. These competitors are seeking to grow
revenue with a different strategy.
Nearly every company is involved with some form of indirect competition. General contractors face
indirect competition from do-it-yourself promoters, such as The Home Depot. Both of these
strategies are aimed at satisfying the customer's needs and desires utilizing a different marketing
mix. By outlining all the potential ways the customer's needs can be met and using the marketing
mix to handle the competition you can generate an advantage for your products and services.