My bloggin' buddy Niti Bhan put up a provocative little post the other day on customer-driven design focusing on "unmet needs." She quotes Meena Mansharamani, Pepsi's North America senior vice-president of innovation and insights, who said:
We're constantly examining our product pipeline to develop innovations that will satisfy the unmet needs of our consumers. With the introduction of Dole Sparklers, we're providing a light, invigorating sparkling juice that's low in sugar and calories, but indulgent on taste.
S-s-s-something from the comments (sorry, if you haven't yet seen Ze Frank's hilarious, The Show, you probably won't get that one), I wrote:
My unmet needs are legion. From a computer that actually repairs itself, to a simple recycling system, to a toaster that actually toasts properly, to a government undistracted by calls to make English America's official language...pretty diverse set of unmet needs. Beverages that are low in sugar and calories, yet indulge my taste, are in another category altogether. Might be nice, might actually be enjoyable, but don't get on my unmet needs radar. Trying to put them there makes a SVP of innovation and insights sound like an idiot.
And later on, I said:
The illusory nature of "need" is one of the great conversations of our age. Grant McCracken writes brilliantly about the attacks against "manufactured need" waged by post-War academics. We came to view Packard's "vast wasteland" of American culture as a kind of original sin; materialism became our guiltiest of guilty pleasures...
[snip]...like it or not, capitalism hinges on enticement; on pointing out that there are things available that you might want, that you might come to feel you need. But capitalism also hinges on discipline; on recognizing that, like Mick said, "you can't always get what you want." Advertisers, marketers and designers (in the main) are definitely on the "enticement" side of that equation.
And then, yesterday, Karen and I went to MoMA and saw this:
Need and Desire flash on and off on this piece of art...the creator of which I neglected to note. Just like in our lives...Need...Desire...Hope...Dream...flashing on and off continually...all aided by the works of our fellows.
We need to get used to the fact that this process isn't creating "artificial needs," it's part of the great evolutionary process which makes one bird more attractive than another; one flower bring on more bees. We are attracted to beauty and wired to acquire things that attract us. What could be more "natural" than that?