What Sells More Product: Features & Benefits or an Emotional Appeal?

Imagine This: You’re At The Store…

You’re standing in front of the grocery cooler to buy a sports drink. Two brands have a “blue” flavor. How do you choose which one to buy? You can look at both labels and try to compare the ingredients. One has one less gram of sugar, maybe the other has one more gram of sodium. Most of us can’t make a purchase decision based on this, so you do what we all do: buy on price. It may be only a nickel difference, but your brain just released a little dopamine telling you that you made the right decision.

But what if we reframed the conversation? What if that same blue drink started talking about how it helps you “win from within?” Or how elite athletes use it to perform at their best. You won’t play professional sports, but you certainly want to perform at your best. That starts to change your perception. Price is no longer a decision point. Now you can’t have a great workout without this product!

This example describes how features and benefits don’t persuade your customer to purchase. They are persuaded by what the product can do for them. And the more significant the emotional appeal you can make, the more your message will resonate. Your product moves from a commodity, e.g., “I need a blue drink” to “I have to have this SPECIFIC blue drink in order to be at my best.”

Where to Start: Benefit Ladder

So how do you get to this new idea and get away from features and benefits? Start with a Benefit Ladder exercise. Here’s a quick framework.

We’ll pretend we make crayons in this example.

1. Write Down the Functional Benefits

Start with the features and benefits of your product. This is the base of your triangle. Write down everything it does. For our example of a crayon company, we’ll write down “blue” because we have a blue crayon.

If we stopped here our message would be “we make blue crayons.” And no one would care.

2. Capture the Technical Benefits

Now move up to the middle layer of the triangle. What technical benefit does this crayon provide? Maybe our blue is 20% more blue than the competitors. Perfect – write it down.

If we stopped here our message might be “we make the blue’est blue crayon on the market.” And still, no one would care.

3. Ladder It Up to Emotional Territory

Now that we know the features and technical benefits, push yourself to answer the question “so what does all this mean? What does my customer do with my crayon?” If we answered this area correctly, our marketing message might be this:

“Our crayon lets you share ideas, express your creativity, and unlock your imagination in ways you never thought possible.”

Now that’s a compelling message!

Atypical Digital is Here to Help

Making Digital More Human is our rally cry. It’s what we do every day for our client partners across the globe. We love a great experience, drool over a well-written message, and get excited about bringing great brands, products, and services to life. We’d love to have a chat and learn more about you. Contact Us and let’s brainstorm how we make digital more human for you.


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