“Purpose” is the center of purpose branding.


So how exactly do you find Purpose? In this series, weI would like to introduce tips and insights for discovering Purpose.


  1. Exploring needs


SMO’s concept of Purpose consists mainly of these three components.


(1) Company’s strengths


(2) Company’s passion


(3) Needs from the market and society


The company’s raison d’etre lies at the intersection of (1) (2) inside the company and (3) outside the company. “Purpose” is the result of digging deep into these parts, finding and verbalizing it.

This time, let’s take a closer look at “(3) Needs from the market and society.”



Needs are just the tip of the iceberg


Needs are like the tip of the iceberg, some visible and some hidden. In other words, it can be understood that there are actual needs and latent needs.


The 2×2 matrix consisting of needs and customers proposed by Adam Alter, a professor at New York University (NYU), is useful when comprehensively exploring and organizing actual and latent needs. The vertical axis of this matrix is ​​divided by needs of articulated ←→ unarticulated. The horizontal axis is divided into customers who have been served (Served)←→customers who have not been served (Unserved). These four quadrants provide an opportunity to consider the following questions.

  • What needs do you currently have for your customers?
  • What are their latent needs?
  • What kind of customers are there in the current market?
  • For example, parents who already visit McDonald’s may have an underlying need to leave their children at McDonald’s.


On the other hand, who are the customers (on the right side of the diagram) outside the markets in which your company participates?

They themselves are not clearly wanted, but perhaps there is some need?

Nintendo’s Wii was a perfect example here. There was a latent need for people other than gamers who wanted to play games easily, even if they weren’t looking for games. Nintendo realized this and turned the shape of the familiar remote control into a game controller to create a game that allows you to move your body intuitively.


Through this framework, if you compare your company’s market and consider the questions above, you will be able to carefully and comprehensively organize your needs.


Toyota’s 5 WHY analysis to find the essence of apparent needs


Taiichi Ohno, the originator of the Toyota Production System, created a 5-why analysis that is useful in discovering essential needs. Originally, the methodology asks the “why” of a manufacturing problem five times to get to the root cause. This idea can also be applied to needs. Why do customers need this? By listening five times, you will be able to see emotional and essential needs in addition to functional needs of the product.


Let’s apply it to an example often seen in business schools. As Harvard Professor Levitt once said, people don’t want to buy quarter-inch drills, they want quarter-inch holes. Let’s go further. why would you want to put a hole in the wall? A customer may want to hang a picture frame. why? Maybe you want to decorate your family trip photos. why? Because I want to enjoy the memories.


Two methods of finding latent needs


“If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said, ‘I want a faster horse.”


Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company. From this statement, we can see that customers are actually ignorant about what they really want and need. It is never easy to find needs that customers themselves don’t know or can’t express. It is necessary to think outside the existing frame, not beyond the extension line. There are two approaches that can help here.


The first is design thinking. The design thinking process has 5 steps (Stanford method)


  • empathize
  • define
  • idea
  • prototype
  • test


1 “Empathy” and 2 “Definition” of problems and issues are useful for discovering latent needs. This allows us to discover hidden insights that have been overlooked until now by exploring all the issues that customers have with a thorough awareness of human-centric and customer perspectives.


The second approach is to envision a future in which we have taken the leap. SMO uses a technique called future insight. (For details on the method and examples, see our tabloid, TOKYO2019.)


So far, we have looked at frameworks and methods for identifying actual and latent needs. Let’s take a closer look next time, focusing on our strengths and passions.