The difference between features and benefits are hard concepts to grasp but important, nonetheless. Achieving successful sales requires a company to amplify to their target audience how a product or service meets their needs. 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.
Benefit positioning is commonly used when a brand has the ability to offer one of more superior benefit that is relative to its competition, or that the benefit is a major selling point to a target audience. Guy Aston, SME director at Hutwaite International explains “A feature is simple a characteristic of your product or service, such as a kettle with a 2000-watt heating ring. A feature should offer benefits, which is a true solution to a specific need. A kettle can boil water in less than 60 seconds. For a café owner to make tea or coffee fast enough, a rapid boiling kettle is the solution.”
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. Viadeo’s brand in China is named Tianji. 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 confusion (well at least for my kids who can’t tell one brand from the other).
Apple is a perfect example of a business that understands the ‘ What’ s in it for me’ ? question. MP3 players were nothing new so how does Apple break this market? The problem with the MP3 market was that the no brand has explained to customers how MP3 players can make their lives better. That is, until the iPod came along. Apple framed the magic of the iPod by telling customers what it can do for them. Instead of saying that their iPod has 1GB of storage, Apple crafted their marketing message by telling customers how the iPod benefited them- by saying that you can store 1,000 songs in your pocket. Seth Godin, marketing guru explained that gigabytes of data have no connection with customers (unless you spoke tech), but ‘ a pocket full of their favorite songs’ is what excites them.
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.