Thursday, September 11, 2008

Want vs. Need: What would you give up?

Recession or not, volatile economics in one's life can force an evaluation of the distinction between a want vs. a need. 

And when technology is involved, the choices can sometimes seem harder. Pew Research's  Internet and American Life Project published a study earlier this year. The study  was focussed on moble acces to data and information, but it also contained an interesting chart (see below) that attempted to quantify what struggles people would have in giving up particular devices.

The trends would seem clear: mobility and broad utility would be hard to give up.  

Surprising (to me at least) is the distinction between cell phone and wireless email device responses. As smartphones/iPods and others blur the distinction between applications (like voice or email) and networks (like internet access), I wonder if the perception of need changes or if it's the question that must? From the study:

  1. 􀂄58% of adult Americans have used a cell phone or personal digital assistant to do at least one of ten mobile non-voice data activities, such as texting, emailing, taking a picture, looking for maps or directions, or recording video.
  2. 41% of adult Americans have logged onto the internet on the go, that is, away from home or work either with a wireless laptop connection or a handheld device.

These numbers, in the context of the chart below, would indicate that use correlates highly with perceived need in the case of mobile and internet (41% need from 58% use).  Whereas with TV, less than half the users (where 100% are assumed to have used) would find it hard to live without. 

Either way, marketers will face challenges in selecting vehicles perceived as easy to discard...particularly if economics force a choice between wants and needs.

(Click to enlarge) 

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