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What the Dolmio pepper hacker taught me about what your business REALLY does

I stumbled across an advert from Dolmio Australia and it’s well worth a look as it typifies the difference between what a business does and what it REALLY does.

It’s about a device called the Dolmio Pepper Hacker. Confused? Let me explain, but first here’s the ad.

Heirarchy of Needs

Now as anyone who’s studied psychology (or marketing) knows, way back in 1943 Abraham Maslow came up with the idea of a hierarchy of needs.

Maslow’s idea, shown simply by a pyramid describes the different motivational stages we all go through as we develop, and the idea that all needs should be satisfied before you move up the pyramid.

So put very simply, you’ll want to feel warm and fed (physiological), free from danger (safety) and feel like you belong to a group or family (love/belonging) before you start worrying about whether you need a new car, a nicer watch or a new pair of shoes (esteem).

It’s not a perfect theory but it is a very useful tool for anyone involved in developing a business and it gives you a framework for working out what your customers REALLY need.

Which brings us back to Dolmio.

What are Dolmio and what do they do? Well, on first glance they’re a brand that makes average quality Italian-themed ready meals.

What they do? They provide a quick, easy family meal. This is the ‘physiological’ level. But from a marketing perspective this places you firmly as a ‘commodity’, a generic good or service where price is the only differentiation.

If you’re hungry and all you need is food you’ll go for whatever is closest and cheapest. No businesses owner wants this (unless you are the cheapest), so you need to appeal to a higher level, one which makes more of an emotional connection.

So what does Dolmio REALLY do?

What Dolmio REALLY does, or at least what the advert is telling us is that Dolmio makes you feel like a good parent because your family eats and talks together (Esteem). Or that you’re one of a group of parents for whom mealtimes are important (love/belonging) and that makes you a better parent (Esteem).

If you believe the advert, Dolmio isn’t an Italian-themed ready meal. It’s a way of showing your family and friends that you care and that you’re a good parent. All for a few quid. This transforms Dolmio from a humdrum jar of sauce to something that fulfills a strong, emotional need and builds self-esteem.

Now, I’m not suggesting that buying pasta sauce is a solution for low self-esteem, but it is a good example of how this thinking can help your business.

What does this mean for your marketing?

Your messages need to show not just how you satisfy your customers basic needs, but also how you satisfy these emotional needs and desires.

Knowing your customers is important so we’ve created a template that helps you work out what your customers are really looking for and in turn, what do you really do. Contact us for a copy

Here are some examples:

Farm shop

What you are. A place to buy food. (physiological)

What you do? Provide great local foods, have a cafe and other activities.

What you REALLY do. Let customers feel good about the food they buy (esteem) or feel like they belong to a group that cares about the environment (love/belonging).

High quality restaurant

What you are. A place to eat. (physiological)

What you do. Give guests the very best food, drink and service.

What you REALLY do. Give customers memories of the best meal they’ve ever had. Or maybe a story the can tell to their friend so, or maybe even bragging rights! (esteem and its closely related friend ‘status’).


What you are. A place to sleep. (Physiological)

What you do. Provide a place to stay with great service, good views and a decent restaurant.

What you REALLY do. Give couples a chance to spend time together and reconnect (love/belonging). Or give families a chance to spend time together, go fossil hunting, find a huge ammonite fossil and have your seven year old son think you’re the best dad in the world (esteem).

And how does this help you?

Without an emotional connection we’re all just commodities – jars of sauce on a shelf or reviews on Tripadvisor.

Being a commodity might be OK if you sell own-brand baked beans, but it’s a quick route to the bottom. To be a profitable business you need to connect with customers and give them a reason to care. You need to find out what they really want.

So, what is it you REALLY do for your customers?

Looking at your business this way is can really help your marketing. It helps you differentiate your business from the competition and it gives you the right perspective.

Knowing your customers is important, so we’ve created a template that helps you work out what your customers are really looking for and, in turn, what you really do. Contact us for a copy.

Nick Cooper