Need Vs. Want: Mobile Video Advertising Based On A State of Mind

Mobile has reached mass market scale where now over 50% of the U.S. population is actively using a smartphone or tablet. Globally, 1 in 7 consumers has a mobile device and NPD Group recently reported that there are now over 500 million smartphones and tablets in the U.S. alone – representing more devices than people. Additionally, consumers are spending over two hours of time a day in mobile apps, on par with online usage, so in-app advertising has become a marketing channel you can’t ignore. Innovation in mobile video ad tech provides marketers with a wealth of targeting options, enabling them to reach these audiences more effectively and efficiently. Yet underlying this is the essential crux that an advertiser must understand first and foremost: what is their consumer’s state of mind? 

At any given moment, the human mind vacillates between two primary mind states: a State of Want and a State of Need. Tailoring and targeting a video ad campaign to a consumer based on his or her state of mind can mean all the difference in the world between a receptive and engaged hand raiser or a closed and non-cooperative rejector. Understanding when and how to reach your consumer in the right mind state can yield superior results across brand metrics like recall, engagement, purchase intent, likelihood to recommend and more – and the mobile app ecosystem is a ripe environment for this protocol. As such, Want vs. Need is the first filter an advertiser must consider when selecting apps in which to advertise with video. These two states and accompanying behaviors require very different approaches to video advertising, and are associated with very different types of apps. 



Need-driven apps might include utilities like navigation, alarm clocks and camera apps – users engage in these types of apps with a singular purpose or goal and don’t want to be distracted or delayed. Apps fueled by Want typically have longer session times and fall in key categories like entertainment (music and video), games, news and social networking. Interestingly, m-commerce apps can fall in either mind state depending on user objective: a consumer might want to order a jacket from Gilt Group, or she might need a new ink cartridge from Amazon. He or she may want to book a trip to Disney for the family, but he or she may need to get on the next flight to Chicago for an important business meeting.

Accordingly, the mindsets associated with Want versus Need are different, too. As advertisers plan their campaigns, they need to be aware of these differences. Mobile consumers in a Need state of mind tend to be:

  • Limited in their time
  • Goal-oriented and focused on a specific task
  • Likely less receptive to ads

This is an audience that is very focused. They need to know what the traffic is going to be like on the ride home and whether to consider an alternate route. They need to transfer funds from savings to checking. They need to time their 5K run. This is not an audience that is going to be receptive to a 15 or 30 second video advertisement that is hampering their ability to get the information they seek. They want their information now, and then move on toward their goal. If your ad isn’t going to help them get there, you may not get their attention.

Conversely, consumers driven by Want are characterized by:

  • Ample time; they’re here to enjoy, engage and consume
  • An open mindset; more receptive to interaction with brands
  • A desire to be entertained and informed (i.e. in environments with longer session times)

This is the audience you want for in-app video advertising. These audiences use their mobile devices for deeper interaction with content across categories, and they’re much more receptive to advertising for this reason. They’re ready to settle in and enjoy the app experience, and if your ad is appealing, they’ll watch it after they’ve hit their limit for free articles, or before the video trailer for the movie they’re considering seeing tonight.

If you’re considering advertising in Want-based apps, the numbers are very much in your favor. Breaking down all app usage by Want vs. Need, a full 87% of time spent in apps are Want-driven. To drill down a bit, the majority of these apps fall under the categories of entertainment (video and music, 10%), social networking (26%), news (2%), games (43%) and lifestyle/other (6%). The remaining 13% of app usage is Need-driven and includes utilities like maps, alarm clocks and camera apps.

As mobile devices get smarter and more accessible, app usage will only increase. We’re at the early stages of a massive growth trend, and ad-to-content ratio is still relatively low – there’s still a great opportunity to be heard in this space. Target your video ads to want-driven audiences, and you’re likely to get the marketing ROI you desire.

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