Move over Maslow there’s a Nairn kid in town

We explore the fundamentals of what brands must get right to be successful and why Maslow may not be the only go-to for building the consumer understanding they need.

There’s a lot of talk about how to build a great brand proposition in the 21st century, like having a purpose, a great story, great advertising or making sure you meet the appropriate criteria for sustainability etc. All of these things and many more are important, but there’s one truism that if forgotten will mean all other factors are irrelevant.

You have to deliver at the point of consumption!

For example, if your microwaveable ready meal takes 10 minutes, or your squeezy tomato sauce doesn’t come out, or your fizzy drink loses its fizz as soon as you open it, then it doesn’t matter if you are sustainable, or you have a great advertising campaign, the consumer won’t re-buy.

So, it’s vital that you know everything about how your category and brands are consumed, and how well they satisfy the needs of target consumers at that moment. The bottom line – To develop winning brands, you need to develop a deep understanding of consumer behaviour, motivations and consumer satisfaction.

Winning brands also understand the evolution of consumption habits and how that affects what the consumer is looking for when choosing brands. At times they also anticipate those needs, giving consumers’ propositions that they didn’t even know they wanted.

Let’s take convenience as an example. Here is a trend that has evolved over time and even created the need for freezers and microwaves in the kitchen. But, let’s not kid ourselves that this trend isn’t going to continue. But, often there is a compromise on things like taste or price, so having a clear understanding of what the consumers’ specific needs are, helps the brand to deliver the right balance of proposition.

But how does a brand team build that understanding?

Clearly, piecing together consumer insights to build a picture of their needs is at the heart of the right approach. But where do you start?

You need a framework of the needs you need to understand.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has always been a go-to for understanding consumer needs, but there is an interesting alternative called Nain’s pyramid, which I thought might be interesting to share. So, let’s take a look at it.

1 Survival needs

This one is similar to Maslow’s physiological dimension. For consumer needs, this is about the core functionality of your product or service.

2 Wants

These are what used to be desired, but through the passage of time and changes in lifestyle have turned into essentials.

Air conditioning was not a necessity a few decades ago. But now it has become one, especially in warmer climates.

3 Practical survival needs

From a consumer needs perspective, these are the features that make your power users much more efficient with the core functionality of your product or service.

Take a car’s navigation system, which makes driving much more efficient. Or take User like’s chat macros. These canned messages that make it so much easier to answer frequently asked questions.

4 Desires

For consumer needs, it concerns product/service features that aren’t essential to the core functionality, but that still offer considerable value.

Parking assistance would be an example for personal cars. Useful, it does not diminish performance for most drivers.

5 Wishes

These are needs that aren’t required on a daily basis, and the customer would still be happy if she lacked them.

Car seat heating strikes me as a typical example. Sure it can be nice for the first few minutes on a cold morning, but how much does it really add?

6 Whims

For consumer needs, a whim would be a feature that is totally unrelated to the product’s core function. For the average guy, James Bond’s car gadgets fall in this category.

Sure I’ve fantasized about a passenger ejection seat at times that the criticism on my driving style became too intense, but this fantasy disappeared just as quickly.


This is a rough guide to The Point of Consumption. It’s number 2 in the series of us sharing the Category Marketing 16 P’s that require focus to deliver accelerated and sustainable business growth. So, in the coming weeks, we will be exploring the next 14 P’s.

For further information and to find out how Big River Solutions can help you please don’t hesitate to contact me or my colleague, David Edwards, as we help you navigate 2021 and beyond.