If you are a young parent in Singapore, you’ll probably know that the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) for primary six school kids has just ended. We were told that in the last few weeks, several secondary school principals have been going around primary schools to share about what is unique about their schools. In a nutshell, they were trying to “position” their school brand in the eyes of “prospective customers” aka the primary school students. Here’s what we’ve heard:
- School 1 – The principal said that their canteen has a very nice Japanese food stall
- School 2 – The principal proudly claimed to be the only secondary school that has a café
- School 3 – The students of the secondary school shared about the great school environment and the students are having fun
So what positioning strategy do you think they used? Well School 1 & 2 are using Features Positioning and school 3 is Benefit Positioning.
The difference between features and benefits are hard concepts to grasp but important, nonetheless. There are several ways that you can position a brand and one of the many types of brand positioning is Benefit Positioning.
By highlighting a product’s benefits in quantifiable terms, a company is more likely to achieve a successful result, rather than just highlighting the product’s characteristics or features. There is a fine line between the characteristics of a product and benefits of a product. Characteristics of a product relate to its features such as its dimensions and specifications whereas benefits are what the product can accomplish for the customer. Example a kettle with a 2000-watt heating ring is a feature, a rapid boiling kettle that allows you to make a cup of tea within 60 secs is a benefit.
Here are some amazing examples of brand positioning using benefit positioning, where benefits are emphasized beyond features of a product.
Etsy is a peer-to-peer e-commerce site started in 2005 known for selling handmade items, crafts and supplies, vintage and unique factory made items. This is a site that offers not only an online marketplace for vendors enabling them to target a niche audience, but it also offers hosted solutions that emphasizes on convenience and time-saving web tools that enable a vendor to maintain his or her account without the need of high-end website maintenance. But more importantly it’s about building relationships. In the words of CEO Chad Dickerson “We believe we are the best platform for creative entrepreneurs, empowering them to succeed on their own terms. Etsy has a decade of experience understanding the needs of artists and sellers and supporting them in ways that no other marketplace can. Our platform attracts 21+ million thoughtful consumers seeking to discover unique goods, and build relationships with the people who make and sell them”.
Now that Amazon has jumped on the bandwagon as well launching Handmade, a marketplace for handmade goods, directly competing with Etsy. With Amazon’s competitive advantage of value, variety and efficiency trumps the independent Etsy?
IKEA, the Swedish furniture company has been a market leader in its category. The company focuses on production of high quality ‘knock-down’ furniture at affordable prices. IKEA has been successful because they help create attractively decorated interiors in their catalogues, enticing homeowners and renters through their beautifully designed catalogues. Pages and pages of beautiful rooms attract customers, compared to the common way most furniture shops sell their items- by displaying individual furniture items. In the words of IKEA “From the beginning, IKEA has taken a different path. We have decided to side with the many. That means responding to the home furnishing needs of people around the world: people with many different needs, tastes, dreams, aspirations and wallet sizes; people who want to improve their homes and their everyday lives. “
So what’s about IKEA’s competitors? No major ones similar like them in the horizon although anecdotal evidence shows that more and more consumers are discovering furnishing ideas from different brands and buying online from platforms such as Taobao.
LinkedIn’s twelve-year dominance started humbly as an online resume repository in 2003 and it catapulted to a powerhouse where professional recruitment took place and expanded to include lead generation, sales solutions, marketing tools and a fully-fledged B2B content engine. Today the platform boasts over 300 million members in over 200 countries. LinkedIn’s benefit positioning is that it provides opportunity not social networking for professionals. As they say” LinkedIn is about helping business women and men to grow their businesses, their jobs and to become better.”
Who are LinkedIn’s competitors? Emerging ones but with a different twist includes Viadeo (French origin) another professional social networking. According to its website it is employing a multi-local approach with presence in France, China, Russia, and North Africa. Viadeo has 65 million members worldwide where about 10m from France. There’s also Xing, another professional business network in German-speaking countries which claims to have 15 million members.
If you know what is Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei, you know we are talking about cultured milk, the popular brand Vitagen, widely consumed in Singapore and Malaysia. Introduced in 1977 by Malaysia Diaries Industry, the product is made by fermenting skim milk with billions of live probiotic cultures. But the brand is not selling the good bacteria (the product characteristics) but selling the benefits of helping the body stimulates a stronger immune system to maintain a healthy digestive system.
Vitagen’s biggest competitor is Yakult owned by Yakult Honsha Co., Ltd from Japan. Yakult is seen as the pioneer in Asia markets for the category and its country of origin i.e. Japan gives it a leg up. Both brands packaging are very similar hence sometimes may lead to confusion amongst the customers.
It takes a degree of comprehension to learn how to focus on selling your product or service using the benefit positioning strategy. By not selling the benefits of your product or hiding it away, you are doing a disservice to your target market.
Why not give them what they want by highlighting to them why your product is the ‘one thing’ that they have been looking for. Features describe your product whereas benefits sell them. While the features of a product matter, benefits are what consumers listen to, or relate to when deciding what goes in the shopping bag and what doesn’t.