The problem isn’t need, it’s change

by | May 30, 2019 | Creating powerful and effective Corporate Design Communications


The issue that prevents attracting new customers, isn’t need, it’s change.

When it comes to selling products from the retail shelf, the problem has never been our solution nor the consumers need. Many times it’s not even the packaging design. Unfortunately, in the rush to get the product designed, packed and shipped, the part most brand marketers and designers tend to leave out of the consumer buying process is… “change“.

Every need is contextual.

The context of a need is individual. Need is felt by a particular person, at a particular time, in pursuit of a particular end-goal.

A need has a functional side - e.g:

  • “I need to feed my dog the healthiest meals available”.
  • “I need to make this table setting look stunning”.

Needs also have an emotional side –  e.g:,

  • ” I need to attract more people to my Insta page”
  • “I need to loose 3 kilo’s before my wedding “

Its important for us as brand marketers to clearly understand that “needs find a way of getting themselves met . . . with or without our products.”  Its  therefore an imperative that packs designed for sale on the retail shelf, either via bricks and mortar stores or online, must tackle the EC (Emotional Connection) quotient

emotional connection

What does it take to change the customers’ status quo consumer mindset?

Every purchase, every sale involves shifting the consumers status quo in some way. Every purchase of something new, every “let’s try it!” , “Lets give it a go!” causes, to a greater or lessor extent, some form of disruption.

  • A disruption to their habitual buying patters
  • A disruption in their thinking
  • A disruption to their “known model of reality”

Unless your targeted consumer has a willingness to accept change and allow for the disruption, they won’t buy regardless of their need.  Your most beautiful packaging, nor your brilliant product solution won’t mean a thing. Never mind being dismissed, in most instances, it will not even make it into their purview. 

The fact is: When it comes to getting inside the heads of our targeted consumers and have them want to buy our “product/solution”, there is a deep rooted issue we cannot ignore:  We are asking the consumer, in some way, to diverge from what they are currently doing and change to a new way of doing things.  

Humans are creatures of habit.

Whilst we like to think that our daily actions result from deliberation and willpower, the truth is that our choices are mostly the products of our unconscious habits. 

Lets be honest…People hate change!!!

Most marketers underestimate how hard it is to change people’s behavior.

We, at Jam&Co, are immersed in the core philosophy and will often tell our clients that “One should never underestimate the task of captivating and converting a target customer. We must move them emotionally and intellectually, so they see and pick our product off a shelf of competitors.”

In fact this core philosophy has helped us create amazing product packs and brands


There’s a BIG assumption built into most brand marketing and advertising campaigns that if a brand can just get your attention…. If a brand can just…

  • give you the single important piece of information about the product/brand,
  • skillfully wax about the products new features, 
  • connect their brand with warm and fuzzy emotions,
  • create a bold and stand out pack and that should be enough to convince the targeted consumer to buy.

The BIG ASSUMPTION that too many brand marketers make is to focus too much of their attention on trying to persuade.. The goal is to shift the target consumers beliefs and preferences. Whereas the core objective is to support CHANGE!

We fail trying to persuade with FACTS

All to often we as brand marketers attempt to persuade others by employing employ facts, features and benefits.

We think persuasion with facts will attract and change the mind of the consumer. Unfortunately that’s not how it works! One simply can’t have the impact your’e looking for with facts alone.

Kathryn Schulz did a fabulous TED talk on what it’s like to be wrong. Schulz explains that one of the first things we do when people disagree with us is to try and educate with facts.

As J.K. Galbraith once famously said, “Faced with a choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy with the proof.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson, a well known American astrophysicist, explains that whilst one must have a good grasp of the facts and arguments to change others, one must “first understand what’s already in their head and how those ideas got there in the first place before you can change someone’s mind.”

“If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Dr. Stephen R. Covey.

Psychic safety

As human beings, we need psychological safety in order to change our minds.

  • We need to know that we’re not going to cease being part of “the tribe”.
  • We need to feel safe in the knowledge that we’re not going to lose a friend.
  • We need to know our promotion will not be negatively impacted by disagreement.
  • We require safety which gives us permission to step into the fray and disagree with someone whilst we try and “persuade” them that we are right and they are wrong.

The BRAND advantage

When it comes to influencing the minds of others and get them to change, there are 2 criteria that gives Brands the advantage.

  1.  We’re most likely persuaded by people we like and respect (Think: When’s the last time you didn’t like or respect someone and they convinced you to change your mind? Like almost never!)
  2. Group settings influence what we think. We’re often likely to be persuaded by people/brands we like. (Think:When was the last time you didn’t like or respect someone or a brand and they convinced you to change your mind?..Like never!)

When it comes to change and being influenced we need a psychological safety net. Being a well known, credible and respected brand helps to provide psychic safety.

When we have psychological safety we are more likely to change our behaviour.

As brand marketers rather than chucking a whole host of facts at your targeted consumer in an effort to get them to change, its important to first understand their position and why they hold it and from there understand how we can identify with them. 


Here’s our logic: Once the consumer is convinced of the superiority of our product, then typically that target consumer will naturally buy our product. Then, once the consumer has made that purchase, repeat purchases should follow into the future.

The issue with this logic is that it doesn’t take into account the target consumer as a group, an abstract mass, a category or consumer segment. Whereas it needs to view them as individuals.

How can you as a brand marketer break the consumers current habitual buying habits? 

The Febreze habit changing study

In his book Smart Change, Art Markman, a professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin shows how Procter & Gamble helped increase sales of the air refresher Febreze by redesigning a bottle from originally looking like a window cleaner bottle (looking to be stored in a cabinet beneath the sink) to a bottle which was rounded and decorative (easily be left out on a counter in a visible spot).

Then there is the other Febreze habit change example as cited in Charles Duhig’s The Power of Habit.

The book is filled with information and examples on how habit patterns work in the brain as well as suggestions on how to change them. Duhig writes about Febreze and how it’s marketer’s were able to shift buying behaviour by changing how the consumer used and thought about the product.

It seems that initially, Febreze was marketed as odorless with poor sales results. Then the marketing scientists focused on the habits of cleaning.

Because Febreze was scent-free, a user would spray it, but unfortunately the application didn’t produce a sensory trigger to create a habit for using it.

Once Febreze added a fresh scent and advertised it for use as the final step in cleaning this turned Febreze from a a cleaning product into a billion dollar product.

5 Levers

According to Keith Weed, the chief marketing and communications officer at Unilever – there are 5 levers brand marketers must pull to drive consumer behavioral change. 

The 5 levers are:

  1. Make it understood. Do people know about the behavior, and do they think it is relevant to them? This lever is about raising awareness and encouraging acceptance. 
  2. Make it easy. Do people know what to do and feel confident doing it? Can they see it fitting into their lives? This lever is about convenience and confidence.
  3. Make it desirable. Will doing this new behavior fit with their actual or aspirational self-image? Does it fit with how they relate to others or want to? We are social animals, and we tend to emulate the lifestyles and habits of people we respect, and follow social norms.
  4. Make it rewarding. Do people know when they’re doing the behavior ‘right’? Do they get some sort of reward? This lever is about demonstrating ‘proof’ and pay-off.
  5. Make it a habit. Once people have made a change, what can we do to help them keep doing it? This lever is about reinforcing and reminding, ‘refreezing’ people in their new habits so it becomes unconscious again.

To change habitual buying habits we need to develop a tight need narrative.  A tighter need narrative will go a long way to helping you to shift your consumer buying habits.

Changing habitual buying habits refers to situations where a our target consumer has a perceived low involvement in a purchase. Here they perceive very few significant differences between brands in a given product category.

Change the NEED Narrative – Questions

So here are some questions to help you fill in the blanks for you to develop your NEED NARRATIVE as put together by Dave Bailey from 

  • Target audience: Who are your target consumers? Who actually uses your product?
  • General problem: What’s a problem that every target consumer can agree with?
  • Key activity: What are customers doing while they use your product?
  • Primary goal: What’s the end-goal of performing this activity ?
  • Niche: Which sub-group of potential customers is most likely to be an early-adopter?
  • Primary functional problem: What’s the hardest part about doing that activity today?
  • Bad/worst case outcomes: What’s the worst case scenario if the activity goes wrong? What is the negative impact of it going wrong?
  • Substitutes: What’s the next-best-option or workaround?
  • Most common complaints: Why do consumers hate these substitutes?
  • Key trend: What will make this problem worse in the future?
  • Quantifiable impact: How can you as a marketer measure the impact of solving the problem?
  • Positive outcomes and emotions: What good things have happened as a result? What is the positive impacts has the product had?
  • Number of potential customers: How many people can you target? How large is the target market?