Uncovering Hidden Needs

The best products are those that fulfill an unmet need in people's lives. Sometimes the voids are obvious. Other times, people adapt so well to their problems that they often don't realize there could be a better solution.

We strongly believe qualitative ethnographic research is a key development tool for uncovering new product innovation opportunities. Our ethnographic research specialists go to where people work, live and play.

We study people's behaviors. We observe how they buy things, where they store things, how they use things (and sometimes how they mis-use things.) We look for the gaps between what they have and what they need. We find ways to make brands and products more valuable. This type of one-on-one design research can be more insightful than focus group discussions because participants are less inhibited than when in groups. The insights are richer because their personal environments can inspire discussions and uncover details that may not come to light in a controlled focus group room.


  • Unmet needs
  • Innovation opportunities
  • Hidden desires
  • Brand perceptions



For a recent project for Proto Tools®, (a sub-brand of Stanley/Black & Decker®,) we crossed the United States to interview hundreds of end-users and corporate buyers at dozens of heavy industrial tool work sites.

Proto Tools wanted learn more about:

  • What matters most to end-users / customers?
  • What unmet wants and needs exist?
  • What are buyers most influenced by?
  • How to best differentiate from their competitors?

Through our research, we found many ways to improve their brand perception, increase sales, and create new product innovations. Guided by our insights, Stanley/Black & Decker re-launched the Proto Tools® brand in 2012 with great success. See The Proto Tools® Brand Development story for details. Learn more.