Discovering Your Customers’ Unmet Needs: A Hanukkah Story
This is the time of year we, as human beings, tend to be most acutely focused on discovering and fulfilling the unmet needs of those around us. What gift can I get my daughter? What charity needs help? And what can I do differently in the coming year?
This should come naturally to us, as marketing leaders — from discovering what customers want on the next click to tapping into an entirely new market. And it is powerful.
Here’s a holiday example to illustrate my point — finding and serving an unmet need is so powerful, it can make a really bad song extremely popular.
A Marketing Master Class From Adam Sandler
According to any rational measure of a musical composition, Adam Sandler’s Chanukah song would not rate highly. The musical accompaniment is very simple and not impressive, Sandler is not a particularly good singer, the lyrics are just a bunch of celebrity name-dropping, and the song doesn’t even really have a name. It’s literally called “The Chanukah Song.”
It didn’t become popular because of some genius marketing campaign, either. The only promotion it really received was one live rendition on “Saturday Night Live” two years before it ever appeared on an album.
And yet, it is hugely popular with a niche group of people and even widely known beyond that group. In fact, one might argue that it’s a holiday staple.
Why? Why did this song, that should have burned out eight minutes after it first aired, keep going for 15 years and counting? It wasn’t a holiday miracle. Sandler tapped deeply into an unmet need.
Sure, Hanukkah songs existed before. But none had ever crossed over into a pop hit.
Sandler even references that unmet need before his first rendition of the song, “I wrote a song for all those nice little Jewish kids who don't get to hear any Chanukah songs.” And that’s why he could call it “The Chanukah Song” because there wasn’t really a lot of competition.
Even the lyrics brilliantly tap into that unmet need, by showering the listener with examples — saying, “you are not alone.” And because celebrity names he sings can feel stale and dated, Sandler has wisely updated the song with four new versions during the past 15 years, featuring more timely and relevant famous folks.
To judge for yourself, here's the fourth version of “The Chanukah Song."
Bring Something New Into the World With Your Products, Your Services, and Your Marketing
If you had asked most experts before the song came out, I’m sure they would have advised Sandler that the surer path to success would have been to make a Christmas song instead of focusing on such a small, niche group. (Sure, he’s Jewish, but so were the composers of “White Christmas” and “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree,” and both Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand made Christmas albums).
The same holds true for your products, your services, and your marketing.
I was looking over a competitor’s website before we met with a company to conduct a Quick Win Intensive for their business. Once we got into the event, their product packages, website, offers, and even button copy looked so familiar. When I asked them about it, they confirmed they kept a close eye on the competitor and tried everything they saw the competitor do.
After we’d been working on this company’s website for a few months, I was in an internal meeting and brought it up. One of my colleagues said, “Funny thing is, all of the changes we made to the client’s website, now the competitor is copying them.”
It reminds me of a marketer who was raving about our events. I asked him what his favorite part was. Surely it must have been the content I produced on the stage, right? No. He said, “I met our biggest competitor at the bar. We copy everything they do. Turns out, none of it is working for them, either.”
As Flint McGlaughlin, CEO and Managing Director, MECLABS Institute has said, “Best practices are often just pooled ignorance.”
Then serve those needs, big and small.
Trōv discovered an unmet need of customers only requiring product insurance for a specific amount of time, like while on vacation. It created on-demand, single item insurance that customers could activate for any duration, with a simple swipe on their smartphones.
Eventful.com built unmet need identification into its product. If a customer searches for an event, but it doesn’t exist (like if I search for a Pearl Jam concert in Jacksonville, but none are scheduled), that customer can use the website to “Demand It!”
Don’t Overlook Your Own Unmet Needs
Most folks who work in marketing departments and advertising agencies don’t get into this work so they can manage databases and email lists. They’re creators.
As you handle all of the necessary tasks for your role, don’t overlook the opportunity to tap into your art and make your soul sing.
Sounds touch-y feel-y, I know. But when you’ve truly tapped into that deep well inside of you, when it fires you up and inspires your best efforts, you, your company, and your clients are more likely to be successful.
When you find those unmet customer needs, it likely takes a creative solution to actually address them. There’s a reason they haven’t been met.
But creative solutions: That’s what we marketers were born to do.
This is my last column for the year, so Happy Holidays to you and yours — whatever holiday you choose to celebrate. And I hope you fulfill all your unmet needs and find success in the coming year. To help you do that, here’s a free 40-slide PowerPoint template to sell your ideas to clients and/or your boss (no form fill required).
Daniel Burstein is the Senior Director, Content and Marketing at MECLABS Institute. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the marketing direction for MECLABS — digging for actionable discoveries while serving as an advocate for the audience.