How to uncover unconscious needs of your users


Unconscious needs influence how users look for solutions to their problems, and how they evaluate the options they have. Understanding them will make a big impact on how you approach creating and marketing your products.

Uncovering unconscious needs is the first step for using story structures to craft user journeys.

What is an unconscious need?

An unconscious need is the underlying, hidden desire that drives the reasons for what people do.

A few examples…

  • Someone may have a conscious need to buy a new car, but an unconscious need to solve their personal loneliness.

  • Someone may have a conscious need to clean their apartment, with an unconscious need to declutter so they can focus on their work.

  • Someone may have a conscious need to keep their kitchen fully stocked, with an unconscious need to maintain peace and order in their home life.

How to discover an unconscious need

“There’s a lot more to ogres than people think. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers… You get it? We both have layers.”

People are like onions, and there are layers and underlying meanings behind what they say. Do not take what people immediately say at face value. Instead, ask probing questions to delve into what they really mean.


To learn about people’s unconscious needs, recruit a group of target participants and interview them. After a participants say something, follow up with probing questions to uncover the unconscious need

Don’t stop there!

Analyze multiple interviews to find themes amongst unconscious needs.

Once you’ve conducted a series of interviews, read through the interview transcripts to find commonalities in unconscious needs amongst your participants.

You can use a qualitative analysis tool like Delve to keep track of those themes and discover the most common or impactful unconscious need.

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