Leadership Marketing Part II: Satisfying an Unmet Need

 Michael Marino

Michael Marino / Founder & CEO

It’s nice being at the top.

As we mentioned in Part I of this series, once a brand gains “leadership status,” consumers apply a halo of perceived benefits – such as, reliability, quality, service, ubiquity and value – whether the brand offers them or not. Preference increases and consumers pay more for a leader’s products or services. Other brands in the category must get smart or climb uphill. Luckily for second place finishers, there’s more than one way to the top.


Chart your course.

Our more than 20 years of ongoing research reveals that the most efficient path to achieving and sustaining brand leadership is built on a consistent brand promise that answers one – and only one – of the following basic human needs.

Here are the four specific needs and the subsequent questions they pose:


One need. One answer.

Brands longing to lead should choose one (and only one) basic human need to satisfy – and they should deliver the solution in everything they do and say. Attempting to satisfy more than one human need muddles communications, raises unnecessary competition, and confuses the consumer.

While there is no wrong way to connect with consumers, there is a best way: the one that allows you to create authentic relationships in ways not yet provided to the customers within the category. First, audit your brand’s physical attributes and functional benefits, which will narrow your options. Also, look at what your competitors are doing. How do they establish relationships with consumers? Understanding how you measure up in the market will illuminate the path of greatest opportunity and least resistance to positioning your brand as a leader.

Find the right balance.

Once you’ve chosen a fundamental human need, answer it consistently in everything you do. Not all strategies are the same, but a mix of rational and emotional communication is critical. Emotion peaks interest and establishes associations. Logic helps consumers rationalize and feel good about their decisions. As we’ve discussed, in the article “Fast and Slow Lessons for Marketers,” Richard Shotton determines that the brain makes most decisions rapidly and without much logic. Even when we think we’re making a conscious decision, the mind is merely post-rationalizing decisions that have already been made. So, choose one need, and then offer a mix of rational and emotional messages that demonstrate why you fulfill that need best.

Each of the mentioned four universal human needs can be translated into a unique and differentiating core brand strategy, which we will present in the next part of our series on Leadership Marketing.

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