A Deeper Look at Human Motivations

With millions sheltering in place, we have witnessed a colossal number of behavior changes. As many brands scramble to stay afloat, home confinement has never been better for the at-home entertainment category, now experiencing a boom. The reason? Our new situation.

But what will stick and potentially become routine? The answer lies in understanding human motivations.

At The Sound, we believe that while behaviors may change as a result of our situation, our motivations remain constant. We are no stranger to changing behaviors and have long grounded our research in understanding the motivations that underlie and drive what we do. In fact, foundational research has illuminated 12 motivation “areas” that encompass our unobservable needs, wants, interests, and desires, that energize and direct our behaviors, and can explain the solutions we choose.


Right now, because we’re stuck at home, we are all looking to Netflix, Peloton, & Zoom to virtually satisfy what we once looked elsewhere for. While COVID-19 has changed our behaviors, we know the spectrum of motivations and our want to meet them has not, and does not, change. The specific motivations we have may heighten or dampen based on the situation we endure, but the breadth of motivations have been with us since the beginning of time and will stick with us until the end. Whereas a caveman once activated his motivation to “Express & Impress” on the wall of a cave for others to see, today, millions satisfy this same motivation by sharing their inspiration on the walls of Pinterest. Same motivation, different behavior, activated thousands of years apart. With a lot changing right now, it’s never been a better time to go back to what we know have always been constant and true—human motivations.


But Why Motivations?

As mandatory stay-at-home orders begin to lift and our situation changes, products and services will need strategies to ensure they stay relevant and can continue to grow. Understanding motivations is critically important because they will help to distinguish between 1) the products and services that are here to stay (because they satisfy a deeper need, want or desire—whether we’re stuck at home, or free to move about the world), and  2) the “band-aid” solutions that we’ll rip off/discard as soon as we’re ready.


A Look To The Future: Retention & Innovation

When restaurants and bars open up, how will virtual Zoom happy hours fare? When board game nights commence, how will Jackbox and other video games hold onto the peoples’ attention? How will fitness apps and brands that have been streaming workouts into our living rooms stay relevant when we can exercise outside or eventually in a gym once again? How do we keep that indoor cycling bike from becoming a $3K clothing rack in 6 months time?


Behaviors are bound to change again with time but understanding the underlying motivation your product or service is activating provides insight into not only how to position, but also how to best optimize your offering. Our time of being restricted is easing and the “stickiness” of products is about to be put to the test. There is no better time to understand how well your brand is delivering on needs and core motivations to stay relevant, or even become part of the routine.

Understanding where you play on the spectrum of motivations also illuminates your product’s “real” and everyday competitive set—and it’s not brands that provide similar products or services, but brands and activities that activate on the same motivations. Now is the opportunity to expand the view of your sandbox from direct category players, to your real competitive set. Knowing this provides not only insight into who you are truly up against, but also sheds light on need-gaps to fill, and your leverageable strengths to win.

It is no secret that Netflix is all about “chilling” and it speaks to the motivation territory of “Escape + Cocoon”. But in these isolating times, people have plenty of time to chill and not enough opportunity to connect or “Engage + Bond”. Netflix saw this growing demand and innovated to intersect the two. Needless to say, how well this new feature delivers on core motivations will determine its long-term success. With uncertainty as to what our “new normal” will look like and where your brand will fit into what is to come, finding ways to innovate, renovate, or smartly pivot to address real needs and motivations will ensure you’re ready when the cage doors swing back open.


What’s Next…

We have surveyed 250 people around the world and over the next few weeks, we’ll dive into their experiences and explore the at-home entertainment category through the lens of motivations-all to help illuminate what has potential for the long term, and how brands can stay relevant and continue to grow. Stay tuned!


Written By:
Tim Platten

Tim has a strong background in quantitative research ranging from establishing indicators for right-wing populist beliefs to analyzing personal perceptions/biases that influence public policy stances. At the core, Tim is dedicated to uncovering actionable, strategic insights and driven by his love for deciphering the complexities of his fellow humans.

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