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Valuing Desire: Motivating our Actions

Wayne McMaster

23 August 2013

Valuing Desire: Motivating our Actions

The true source of our actions are lead not by our heads but through our hearts: its all about desires.

By introducing the framework of ‘desire’ to define the key ingredient to brand success, we have in fact identified the most fundamental level on which we relate to brands. So, if we can translate this psychological and physiological state to brand owners, could desire sign, seal and deliver entire demographics of brand lovers?

Throughout history many scholars have expressed theories around desires or motives, 'doing something for its own sake'. Aristotle listed twelve, Decartes listed six "passions of the soul", others during the turn of the last century pushed for 20 basic psychological needs, many of us are familiar with Maslow's 'Hierarchy of Needs'.

Our desires are universal and as old as time. They are what motivate us. Dr. Steven Reiss, an emeritus professor of psychology at The Ohio State University has identified 16 basic desires that guide almost all of our meaningful behaviour. In his paper he describes how motivation is the assertion of intrinsically held values. We are motivated to assert our values. Our values inspire the stories that emotionally connect us.

Brands that understand desire can create powerful emotional connections, built on their values, through story-telling with their consumers.

Human Centred Design: The true Pleasure Measure

At face value, desire is a loaded word with Freudian sexual connotations; but when talk about achieving or attaining our desires the words people use to describe their thoughts and feelings on the subject lean towards words like pleasure. Pleasure is powerful because it is the feeling that comes with satisfying desires, the feeling we get that is compelling us to do, to act and to buy.

It’s critical as we design for premium Interiors and Lifestyle brands that we find the pleasure in people’s language, as this points us to the specific desires they hope to fufill such as 'getting the best', 'status', 'self expression' 'aspiration' 'connected-ness' or 'beauty'. Establishing this pleasure-to-desire relationship, allows us to gain profound insights into why people really want a product or service.  Desire becomes the true “why,” something Simon Sinek knows all about in his book "Starts with why…"; it delivers the level of knowledge and inspiration needed to create brands that are cherished and not forgotten.

Feelings are the Language of Desire

Exploring desire isn't always easy. Some desires listed by Dr Reiss are difficult to discuss openly (sex, power, vengeance). Others can be too subtle such as idealism, honour. However the outcome of desire — pleasure is much easier to quantify and discuss in terms of feelings. Its how they feel when they have attained a desire or goal. It shows up in the adverbs and adjectives they use to describe things. The qualities of what they love are the attributes of pleasure.

Our job is to identify and focus on distinct pleasure themes in people’s language and behavior that point to their desires, and to understand how a product or service satisfies those desires. If we can do this, we’ll truly understand what's driving behavior and design accordingly.

Secret Desire

Once we establish a brand's pleasure-to-desire relationship, we can leverage design to help build a visual language around 'why I love this'. Brands can then "design in" desire, getting closer to customers, forming powerful and often intangible connections with them. Understanding the relationship between desire and pleasure has a profound impact on the quality of a brand’s decision making.

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