There are two very basic and related questions that the founding team of any brand or product must be able to answer with absolute clarity.

1. What problem does your product or brand solve?

2. What unmet need does your product or brand fill?

Before you start worrying about branding, packaging, price, social media, or channel, you need to take the time to answer, test, and prove both of the above. If you don’t, or worse you can’t, you are at risk.

Gone are the days when consumers simply choose a product that looks cool or tastes good. Those are now baseline expectations, non-starters if you will. Today’s consumers want, demand more. The products they buy, the brands to which they become loyal, are those that either solve a problem or meet a need yet unmet. If you’re not doing either, the chances of building the velocity and traction needed to grow are pretty low.

Consumers buy products that make their lives easier, that allow them to eat and drink in alignment with their beliefs. Many suffer from the 6-million dollar man syndrome. They want to be stronger, faster, smarter and they expect the food they eat and the fluids they drink to make that possible. There are food tribes, vegans, flexitarians, keto, paleo, and more. Each tribe member wants choices that keep them in the fold but don’t require them to make sacrifices in taste or convenience. There are those with allergies, intolerances, and even fears. Some just want to eat in a manner that leaves less of a footprint on this place we all call home. If you are a food and beverage brand, here is the good news. There is an endless number of problems to be solved.

As stated earlier, the second question is related to the first. Unmet needs are not dissimilar to problems. In fact, they are like close cousins. The line between the two is often blurred. But, unlike a problem, a need can be latent. When Steve Jobs thought that we all should be able to have a 1,000 songs in our pockets, most people weren’t vocalizing that need. If you enjoy music and podcasts, can you imagine not having the ability to listen, share, and find those where and when you wanted? How about being able to order just about anything and have it show up at your doorstep the next day? Prior to Amazon, going to the store is what we did, most if not all weren’t thinking of a better way to shop. Both of these are examples of filling an unmet need.

I am going to challenge you to work your way through these two questions. What problem does your product or brand solve and/or what unmet need does it fill? Don’t treat this lightly. This should be of the highest priority because not knowing how or not being able to answer them poses an existential threat to your business.

Here is a little bonus exercise. Once you’ve asked and answered the questions above, there are two other nuanced ways to apply them to go a bit deeper and gain an even greater degree of clarity. The first is yo add the qualifier “better than my competition” to the end of both questions and the second is to ask what is it that your competitors do better than you. An honest response to both can provide some real pearls of wisdom.