Need-based product substitution

We use products to satisfy a need. But we can choose from a range of products to satisfy that need. For instance, we use a car instead of a bike to satisfy the need of getting faster to a location. Or we use a train instead of a bike for the same purpose. This substitution is even more evidence in the case of fundamental human needs. For example, we can satisfy the need for leisure through going to the movies, riding a bike or reading a book. It is fascinating that when substituting one product for another, secondary outcomes do not seem to weight that much. A study (in German) argues that there might be a correlation between the amount of time spend with PCs and smartphones and sports. In this case, the smartphone replaced biking as the satisfier for the leisure need.

Lately, I have come across three need satisfiers that might not exist in the future anymore. The smartphone, cars, and the cinema.


We use the smartphone for dozens of things. Besides, the “application” level such as texting, online banking or dating, we also use it on the “need level”. The smartphone is a void killer when we are waiting in lines. There are even studies that suggest the the decrease in chewing gum sales is due to the smartphone. Instead of impulsively buying chewing gums when waiting at the cashier, we look at our phones. Furthermore, we use the smartphone for relaxation. One could so far and claim that instead of taking a smoke break, people relax by checking their social media apps. Or how we pretend that we are texting to avoid looking lonely. With the decentralization of the smartphone through hardware where the smartphone’s hardware evolves into dedicated devices such as augmented reality glasses as screens and cameras or headphones as speakers (see the future of headphones) I am curious how our social behavior will change. What will the future be like where you do not have a physical device to signalize the outside world that your thoughts are currently somewhere else? I have proposed here that in the future we would use lights in our headphones to communicate with our outside world. A red light, for example, would mean that we are busy and a do not want to be bothered.

Furthermore, smartphones replaced smoking, boredom (while waiting) and exercising. Besides the smartphone, augmented reality will replace a host of other things.


For many people driving equals excitement and freedom. Taking away driving with autonomous cars equals taking away this excitement and freedom. I have explained here (under Compatibility) why this is a huge problem for the adoption of autonomous cars. Although I do not think that it will stop the autonomous cars’ diffusion, I believe that will need another source of joy and freedom once driving is taken away from us. Whereas more free time by not having to drive will be an alternative source for freedom I am not sure what will substitute the lack of excitement. If driving a car really means so much to people in terms of excitement and freedom I strongly believe that something bigger will emerge to satisfy these cravings. Furthermore, I believe that the introduction of a new satisfier for these needs will support the diffusion of the autonomous cars. A good analogy are statue symbols. One example is the disappearance of the “big office” as a status symbol in the workplace.


Since 2001 movie attendance has been declining. Fascinating. Considering how much we can stream and the quality of home entertainment this development can be considered normal. Furthermore, Apple planning to stream cinema movies 17 days after their premiere instead of 90 could further push this trend. However, going to the movies is more than just consuming a film, it is a culture activity compared to other activities such as “reading habits (books and newspapers), attending live performances (plays, concerts, operas, ballet and dance); and visiting cultural sites (historical monuments, museums, art galleries or archaeological sites) [1]. The German new site t3n reported about Virtual Lab which is building the “cinema of the future” by giving users a “cinema like movie feeling at home” through VR headsets. Thus threatening the existence of cinemas. I am unsure whether this will work. Going to the movies is more than just watching a film, it is a social endeavor. This is something you do not have at home. Considering, however, that streets also used to be social gathering places and the trend towards “digital hangouts” we must also take into account the possibility of cinemas disappearing. If that were to happen, then we would need another place for social gathering of that kind (see Need substitution below). However, if this trend continues I am convinced that we will see a new cultural outlet. These digitla hangout might indeed be one.

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