The Ultimate Guide To Wants And Needs Part 3 [Copywriting Guides from the ICA]

In part 1 of this series we talked about the holy grail of persuasion – needs and wants. In part 2 we looked at the secret ingredient – wants. Now in part 3 we wrap it up with needs and how dealing with needs will help you create a long lasting and reputable business.

Whilst wants are things we don’t need, needs are things we do need. Sounds utterly confusing, especially when we discover that what many of us think we need, turns out to be just another want.

If we don’t understand the difference, we run the risk of appealing to the wrong pain in our copy (do that and you won’t sell a thing).

But there is only one real need in the world, and that is the need to stay alive. Sell someone on that, and you have a friend for life (both theirs and yours depending on who outlasts the other).

This is why the elixir of life – the holy grail I mentioned in the first sentence, is the fixer of all things – the magic wonder pill that offers immortality to all who want it. It’s all a myth of course, but that’s not the point.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have wants that go beyond all norms. Wants that are impossible to fill (despite all the peddlers of dreams out there). And it doesn’t take much to realise that the ultimate need – to stay alive, is really not that much different from the ultimate want – to live forever.

In other words needs and wants are not black and white, they truly are fifty shades of grey (or rather, infinite shades of grey).

One person’s want is another’s need. So we need (and I use the word ‘need’ on purpose here like I do everywhere) to know where our audiences’ needs are, and having figured that out, discover how to turn that need into a want.

This is because, as I said in part 1, we sell to the want and deliver the need. For example, if you need to sleep but can’t, then you are going to be in the market for some kind of relief. The pain of not being able to sleep is one of the worst in the world.

It starts with anxiety followed by paranoia. We can start having hallucinations. We get ratty with those we love. We lose concentration and our work gets sloppy. In the end it can feel like some kind of madness (which it is – the brain needs rest).

So we go to the doctors and they give us pills (after warning us about addiction and a whole load of other ethical issues). But we don’t care because right now we’ve been given the one thing we really really want – hope, and with that hope, the dopamine kicks in before we’ve even cashed in our prescription.

That’s just one example of turning a need into a want (and if you want to find out more, make sure you subscribe to my weekly newsletter).

PS. Let me know in the comments what your needs and wants are as far as being a copywriter is concerned. If you have it all, that’s fine too, just let me know what drives you on. What’s the motivation behind your interest in copywriting and the copywriting industry. Why do you want to be part of this industry? We’ll go into that in the next series.


needs, wants

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