Needscope: The Psychology of Choice


Some matters of taste are set in stone. Dogs rule, cats drool. Purple and green should never be seen. But when it comes to what we drink, Kiwis’ tastes change like traffic lights, says the team at Coca-Cola.

Using a groundbreaking New Zealand innovation (Needscope) that matches our choices to emotions rather than fixed demographics, the team at Coca-Cola has discovered what makes us tick when we’re in front of the fridge.

The truth is, we’re a fickle bunch. While water is the drink of choice for many, almost nobody drinks water all the time, no matter how health-conscious they are. “We are hard-wired not to do without,” says Coca-Cola knowledge and insights manager Carl Edkins. “We often don’t want to make compromises.”

Just like some people’s voices change when they pick up the phone or visit their elderly grandmother, different situations and emotions change our taste every moment of every day.

Instead of the traditional marketing demographics, which put us in rigid boxes like ‘household spender aged 25-34’, or ‘male, married with two kids, over 40’, our drinks choices can be roughly divided into six emotion-driven flavours: vibrancy, affiliation, tranquillity, composure, superiority and bravado.

Kiwis make around eight drinks choices a day based on our moods, whether we’re feeling insecure and need to show our superior taste (think a sophisticated drink like a Schweppes tonic water and mixer), or we’re at a beach party and we’re in the moment (something fizzy, fruity and calories be damned). The next morning, we may well be reaching for that soothing glass of water, as the guilt hits.

“You need to have an option available for each one of these needs when you walk into a store,” Edkins says.

And our options are set to expand. While Kiwis are spoilt for choice when it comes to drinks that tempt our risk-taking love of adventure (our bravado emotion), such as energy drinks, sports drinks and bottled water for hardcore fitness enthusiasts, we’re behind the Aussies when it comes to drinks that show our superior discernment.

As our population boom opens the door to niche products – and as more of us leave the age of mountain-running on weekends – Edkins says New Zealanders can expect more exotic choices that set us apart from the usual soft-drink crowd. In the future, we’ll be choosing more natural ingredients like stevia, or anything that screams ‘individual’.

Think iced coffee with the latest miracle spice or goats’ milk infused with wild orchid – although on a hot day, of course, nothing’s going to beat an ice-cold Coke.

The Six Taste Moods

  • Vibrancy – That feeling of being alive. It’s tangy, it’s fizzy. It has an umbrella in it. Drink match – sparkling white sangria.
  • Affiliation – Feeling part of a group. It’s what everyone else is drinking. Drink match – Coke, beer.
  • Tranquility – Relaxation time. It’s like a hug in a mug. Drink match – herbal tea, hot chocolate.
  • Composure – When you want to be in control of your emotions. It’s good for you. Drink match – water.
  • Superiority – You want something that makes you feel like a boss. It’s an acquired taste. Drink match – elderflower and cucumber, Campari and soda.
  • Bravado – Wahoooooooooo!! A bottle could power a small mountain kingdom. Drink match – Powerade, Demon Energy

About Needscope

  • Consumer research and brand planning system
  • Developed in New Zealand in the late 1990s
  • More than 8000 studies in 80+ countries and countless markets.