How to Map Consumer’s Needs and Influence Their Behaviours


At the core of every purchase there’s a need that, as consumers, either we have, or we think we have.

As marketers, our mission is to discover consumer’s needs, to map them out, and ultimately to address them with products that delight the masses. If done properly, we will trigger purchase behaviour and we will ultimately achieve brand growth.

Modeling Consumer Behaviours

Consumers’ behaviour is not only driven by needs but also by other powerful forces such as mindset, occasions of consumption, mood, or emotion.

The two most common modern approaches toward consumption modelling are:

In the following paragraphs we will analyse in greater detail how to build need state maps.

1. Discover Occasions of Consumption with the 4W’s Approach

The first step towards need states mapping is to identify the main occasions of consumption. One of the most effective ways to find representative occasions is to use the following four questions:

  1. When is the occasion taking place? (e.g. breakfast, lunch, night time)
  2. Where is taking place? (e.g. at home, in a restaurant, in a club)
  3. Who is consuming? ( e.g. food enthusiasts, party-goers, athletes)
  4. What is going on during consumption? (e.g. cooking, sport, drinking, dancing)

After finding answers to the 4Ws, we should be able to list a set of occasions that are:

  • representative of consumption moments
  • well separated
  • covering the whole spectrum of consumption

We are left with lists of occasions that vary in relation to the type of product we are studying. For example, if we pick alcoholic beverages (e.g. whisky) as a reference category, we would be able to discover occasions such as:

  • OCCASION 1: “Me time”
  • OCCASION 2: “Late night party”
  • OCCASION 3: “Tasting night”


2. Map Emotions Using the Valence-Arousal Model

After listing all the potential occasions, we are now able to focus on each one of them and identify the main emotions emerging in each occasion. Typically such emotions vary in relation to:

  • Arousal level: passive vs. active emotions (e.g. bored vs. excited)
  • Valence: positive vs. negative emotions ( e.g. disgust, joy)


3. Putting It All Together

We have identified occasions, we have surfaced the emotions emerging during consumption. Now what?

We connect the dots and we relate emotions to occasions. Think about this step as a segmentation task.

By relating emotions to occasions we are able to spot needs more clearly. More importantly, we can put such needs into a context of consumption.

For instance, in the case of a whiskey brand, we would see emerge a specific need:

  • NEED : reward myself after a tiring week at work
  • OCCASION: at home (where), in the evening (when), I am not a whiskey ‘aficionado’ (who), but I have a couple of spare bottles in the cupboard, I enjoy drinking them while listening to classical music (what)
  • EMOTION: calm, soothing feelings; relaxation



A need state map can tell you about consumption occasions for your product and associated emotional states. You can understand when, where and how people are consuming your product and what needs they are fulfilling by consuming it. This information can be used in different ways:

  • You can tailor the marketing mix of your products to your audience, generate marketing collaterals that target a specific need state.
  • A need state map generated from consumer data can surface “white spots”; in other words, it can show you consumption occasions and needs that you may not have been aware of.
  • Your customer base’s choice drivers and need states can be feedback for product development as well, especially if the product doesn’t completely satisfy the need the customers are trying to fulfil.