Identify the Key Benefits of Your Brand

How to Identify the Key Benefits of Your Brand

Here’s a classic marketing story that I love. It’s about an elderly woman who needs to buy a new furnace to replace the one in her home that has just failed. Naturally, she goes to an appliance store. There’s only one salesman on the floor, so she waits patiently for him to complete a phone call. Then he walks over and introduces himself.

“Hi, I’m Tom. What brings you here today?”

The woman tells Tom that her furnace has failed and she needs a new one. Tom asks her some questions about the size of her home and about the furnace that she has now. Then he launches into a sales presentation.

He tells her something about the makers of the furnace he recommends, their long and illustrious history, and how high they rank in customer satisfaction. He describes the unique features of the furnace, including its operational efficiency and the number of BTUs (British Thermal Units) generated. When he pauses, the old woman speaks up.

“That’s very nice,” she says, “but will it keep an old lady warm?”

Tom, the salesperson, described features. That’s what most of us do naturally. We describe the features of the product or service; we describe the features of our company. We love that stuff, but customers don’t care about it. Customers want to know what difference our product or service will make in their lives. They want to know if our furnace will keep an old lady warm.

Features are facts about your brand. Benefits are what these things mean for your customer. “Keeping an old lady warm” is a benefit.

Most companies sell features, but people buy benefits. Great marketing sells benefits. The benefits you provide will also be at the core of your Brand Promise. To deliver benefits that matter, you must go back to your analysis of your Target Market Customer so you can understand what he or she wants to buy.

Start by answering the following questions about your customer. Look back at the work you did on Target Market Analysis for help.

  • What are your ideal target customers trying to achieve?
  • What is the job they want to get done?
  • What’s their biggest problem?
  • What’s their biggest frustration?
  • What’s their greatest desire?
  • How does your offering make them feel?

Keep this nearby as we go through the work to define your key benefits. Your key benefits should be relevant and compelling. When you deliver on those benefits, you create superior value. There are three kinds of benefits you can use to create that value:

Functional benefits 

Functional benefits describe what your product or service does for your customers. These are your offering’s attributes, or “the job to be done.”

Economic benefits 

Economic benefits describe what your product or service means to your customers in terms of time or money. Economic benefits appeal to your customer’s head, his or her rational part.

Emotional benefits 

Emotional benefits describe the way your product or service makes the customer feel. Emotional benefits appeal to your customer’s heart, which is why they are the most powerful benefits.

Communicate your 3 Key Benefits

Most companies can come up with functional benefits quite easily. They are derived directly from features, and that’s why so many companies make functional benefits the core of their marketing. However, functional benefits tend to be generic to the category – all your competitors can say essentially the same thing. This is a bad idea for two reasons:

First, the old lady has a job to be done: She wants to know if your furnace will keep her warm on a cold night. Yes, that is what she wants, but focusing on that functional benefit in your marketing is not that helpful because all furnace brands can claim that exact same attribute, so it does not differentiate your brand in any way.

Second, concentrating on functional benefits can lead to an “arms race” in an industry. I experienced a perfect example when I was a competitive bodybuilder (Mr. New Zealand 1993). As I’ve mentioned, weight gain by adding lots of muscle mass in the off-season is important for every bodybuilder. Protein shakes were an important tool to aid weight gain.

The arms race kicked off when one company claimed that its protein shake would deliver 1,500 calories per serving. That’s impressive, but it was only the start. Soon, another company offered a shake that delivered 1,850 calories. Another soon claimed 2,000 calories, and the race was on. Next was 2,700 calories, then 3,000, then 4,000; finally, one of the competitors claimed 5,000 calories.  

Car companies spend millions of dollars making this marketing mistake all the time. They talk about how much more powerful or economical their cars are compared to the competition. Computer companies talk about how fast and powerful their processors are. It’s not a sustainable marketing claim, and it just keeps the leapfrogging arms race going.

It’s essential for your customers to know what your product or service does for them, so functional benefits are important. But they’re frightfully easy to copy, so there’s no sustainable advantage created.

What about economic benefits? You provide an economic benefit if you give people more value for their money. You can do that by reducing the price. That’s how most companies do it. But you can also do it by offering a comparable or better product at the same price, or by decreasing the overall lifetime cost of ownership. Or you can help your customer to be more efficient.

Another way to deliver economic value is to save people time. Many people today will tell you that they need time more than they need money. Economic benefits are more powerful than functional benefits because they consider your product or service from the customer’s viewpoint. Economic benefits are important, sure, but ultimately, both functional and economic benefits are easy to copy, and they appeal to the head. Many businesses identify their key functional and economic benefits, call them “the value proposition,” and think that their marketing stops there. No, it doesn’t.

The most powerful benefits appeal to the heart. Emotional benefits are the way your product or service makes your customer feel. That’s what customers are really buying, the way your product or service makes them feel. Jim Stengel, a former marketing manager at Procter & Gamble, puts it this way:

“The modern brand doesn’t seek to own a single attribute; it seeks to own a single attitude.”

Think about the most powerful brands you know. They all offer powerful emotional benefits.

Harley-Davidson motorcycle riders have such a strong emotional connection with their brand that some have “Harley-Davidson” tattooed on their bodies. The emotional benefit for Harley riders is all about the rebellion and freedom they feel when they associate with the brand.

For years, Harley-Davidson’s CEO argued that they sold an experience and that the bike just happens to be a fundamental part of that experience. One of their execs is quoted as saying “What we sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns, and have people be afraid of him.”

That benefit isn’t a function of horsepower. It doesn’t matter if Harley manufactures the most or least sophisticated motorcycles on the road (functional benefit). It also doesn’t matter if they are the most expensive or the best-value motorcycles on the road (economic benefit). They give their customers an emotional benefit that can’t be easily copied. They appeal to the “rebel archetype” and let you express your inner rebel.

How about AXE (Lynx) deodorant? They’re not saying that their deodorant stops more perspiration than other deodorants (functional benefit). They’re not saying that their deodorant is cheaper or lasts longer (economic benefit). AXE sells young men the emotional benefit of “use this product and women will find you irresistible.” That’s powerful stuff.

An emotional benefit can deliver commanding business and marketing results. If you can “own” an emotional benefit in the mind of your ideal target market customers, you can potentially charge a sustainable price premium. You can have a sustainable difference that you won’t need to change frequently, even if some details of your product or service change or evolve over time. 

With that background, it’s time for you to go to work. Start by listing all the benefits your product or service provides.

List all your functional benefits: the service your brand performs, the job it does for your customers, and the attributes of the product or service itself. Functional benefits include what your brand does for your customers – its performance, ease of use, reliability, flexibility, and many other attributes.

Now, I want you to list all your economic benefits. Economic benefits deliver economic value, which means they help people get more for less time and money. Some kinds of economic benefits are lifetime cost of ownership, speed or convenience, responsiveness, time savings, lower error rate, higher productivity, return on investment, and many others.

Finally, list all your emotional benefits. How does your product or service make your customers feel? Emotional benefits include things like feeling in control, safe, secure, clever, powerful, stylish, relaxed, pampered, loved, rebellious, caring, cared for, heroic, adventurous, sexy, fun, sophisticated, prudent, free, belonging, peace of mind, and many others.

We’ve got one more thing to do before moving on. You need to identify your number-one benefit in each of these three categories. Choose your number-one functional benefit, your number-one economic benefit, and your number-one emotional benefit. These three Key Benefits will form the foundation that supports your Brand Promise……

Excerpted from the book: Business Execution for RESULTS, by Stephen Lynch


Until next time…