With the rise of service design, it has become clear that understanding and designing for your users is crucial. Depending on what you stand for as a brand or organisation, you offer a service/product that takes away a problem from your users. In other words, your product or service meets their needs. If you have a good understanding of your users' needs, you can develop and communicate your product/service in such a way as to highlight its most valuable benefits. This ensures a strong value proposition.
When you research your users’ needs, they will fall into one of the following five base categories according to Maslow's pyramid:
- Physiological needs:: Primary biological needs such as food, warmth, air and water.
- Safety: needs in the form of safety, assurance and security.
- Belongingness: intimacy in the form of friendship, love and social contacts.
- Esteem: Recognition in the form of the combination of self-respect and the appreciation of others.
- Self-actualisation: in the form of opportunities for personal and mental growth.
The bottom layer of this pyramid consists of functional needs. These are directly linked to the features of your product (category) that have a functional utility for the user. The second and third layers contain emotional needs. When you respond to these as a brand, you give the user a feeling during the purchase process or during use, for example, feeling safe, free or loved. The last two categories are about self-expression and development and address the desire to improve oneself and be recognised. As a brand, you can capitalise on this by giving your user the opportunity to be the best version of themselves and communicate this to the outside world.
Often there are several companies offering the same product category. When you know your end-user well, you can differentiate yourself by linking certain benefits to your brand that resonate with your target audience. You can do this by adding specific features to your product, setting up your service in a certain way, but also with your brand story you can fulfil an emotional need and thus build a relationship with your user. This story and the features must connect to your purpose as a company, so that it is a coherent whole and you get a logical brand positioning. Your brand positioning is the distinctive and credible position that your organisation/brand occupies in the mind of your customer compared to competitors.
Volvo, for example, is committed to safety. They invented the seatbelt as we know it today, which was revolutionary when it was conceived. Instead of patenting the design, they let all other brands use it because it was a much safer system than the alternatives. So Volvo is focusing on safe cars (product category) by using technologies such as airbags, assisted driving etc. (features) that reduce impact on the user (functional benefit), making users feel safe (emotional benefit), giving them the confidence to be adventurous (self-expressive benefit).