Moving beyond product features and benefits in brand messaging

Discussion
Source: YouTube
Aug 05, 2020
Dave Wendland

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a current article from the blog of Dave Wendland, VP, strategic relations at Hamacher Resource Group. The article first appeared on Forbes.com.

We’ve all heard late-night advertisements touting amazing product features: “It slices! It dices! But wait — there’s more!” For those of us old enough to remember Ronald M. Popeil, who started pitching products on infomercials in the late 1950s, I imagine we would agree that the same technique may not be quite as popular today given the rise of consumerism.

Across today’s competitive battlefield — especially amid the pandemic, when speed and convenience have become necessities — a litany of features alone isn’t likely to convince consumers to purchase a particular item.

So how are shoppers navigating their sea of choices and determining which products to bring into their homes? I believe there are two key factors: the brand’s promise and its attributes.

Identifying the true nature of a brand’s promise is essential in creating and promoting its “essence.” A brand’s essence is intangible, unique and unwavering. It may conjure up feelings of self-worth, confidence, serenity or other aspirational emotions. Such emotional marketing helps brands stand apart and compete, and it demonstrates their values and commitment. Ultimately, a brand must be able to tell a story.

The second key factor in a brand’s success is its attributes. Attributes are not features. Instead, attributes identify the unique traits of the brand in the market and in the minds of the customers (its physical form, character and personality). Features are most often descriptors — they define what the product is.

More and more shoppers are searching to discover and support brands whose core attributes align with their values, personal aspirations and needs.

Here are five critically important elements to consider when developing a brand strategy in today’s market:

  1. Audience knowledge: Who will be the key (narrow) target?
  2. Brand identity: What is its personality? What is its persona?
  3. Key differentiators: How does this brand stand apart in the market?
  4. Market messaging: Is the main theme consistent and relatable?
  5. Media choices: Where will the message resonate most? Don’t forget about social media.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Has the coronavirus crisis increased or decreased the importance of what a brand stands for and how its attributes align with expectations? What’s the secret to conveying a brand’s promise and its attributes in messaging?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The COVID-19 crisis has significantly increased the importance of a brand’s values as a reason for a customer to buy from them. "
"...the secret to conveying a brand’s promise and its attributes in messaging would be two things: be decisive and follow through."
"I like this point of view a lot. Against all expectations, COVID-19 has increased consumer appreciation for branding."

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15 Comments on "Moving beyond product features and benefits in brand messaging"


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Suresh Chaganti
BrainTrust

It is tempting to think that COVID-19 has upended consumer behavior and what they respond to. But the fundamentals of marketing and brand are well, pretty fundamental. Customers relate to brands that they believe share their view of the world. For instance, a brand promoting safety and quality means they are looking to attract customers who value safety and quality. The actions of brand should be consistent with the promise. The benefits of the product are also presented primarily through the prism of safety and quality.

I don’t think COVID-19 changes these fundamental marketing tenets.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

The initial impact of the virus has been to decrease the importance of branding, simply due to supply chain issues. While we had little social engagement in April and May, it was common to hear friends remark on some new brand or flavor that “they never would have tried normally, but it was the only thing on the shelf.” In a surprising number of instances that led to “but I’m glad because I really like it” or “it’s just as good as the one I was buying.” Whether those brand buying habits will stick in the same manner that online shopping and contactless delivery will is debatable.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

I have heard the exact same things as you describe. Every marketer wants their brand to become a habit. Habits have been broken and new habits will form based on new experiences.

Stephen Rector
BrainTrust

The COVID-19 crisis has significantly increased the importance of a brand’s values as a reason for a customer to buy from them. Consumers want brands to have the same core values as themselves and want to hear the brands speak to these traits. Those values can be different as brands are targeting different consumers, but to not showcase these in an authentic way would be a miss.

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

That is certainly what our research has shown, as well, Stephen. Authenticity in brand messaging has never been more important. With some “jumping on the bandwagon” of exaggerated claims in these unsettling times, they will fail and only the truly genuine brands with consistent values and attributes will remain standing when the dust of C19 begins to settle.

Rachelle King
BrainTrust

This topic reinforces the dichotomy between needs and wants. Yes we all want brands that align with our values, give us elite social currency and make us feel inspired. However in the midst of a global pandemic, we all need products that will keep us safe and well. The scarcity of some of those safe and well products means consumers have to dig deeper and look harder to find products that can deliver on this primal need right now. For many, if that means forgoing a favored brand (likely because it’s out-of-stock or, due to pandemic-driven price gouging), then they will choose another brand to meet those safe and well needs.

The crisis will drive brand function over attributes. It’s imperative that brands be mindful of the priorities of consumers in a crisis and ensure their message can balance attributes with function and relevance.

Rodger Buyvoets
BrainTrust

The coronavirus crisis has greatly changed the face of consumer habits and spending. More people are careful where they spend their money and with whom. Especially given the increased social awareness during this time, consumers have been choosing to shop with brands that align with their values, take a stance, and have had clear communication during this time. If the brands they normally shop with fall short, consumers will pledge their loyalty elsewhere. Therefore the secret to conveying a brand’s promise and its attributes in messaging would be two things: be decisive and follow through. Meaning, you need to stay true to your brand identity when you take a stance. When you do this, speak boldly and don’t try to please everyone, as that will likely backfire. And more than anything, be transparent about your promise when you do follow through.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

Let us not forget that “features” mean nothing to a customer until someone says why that feature is important. As in: “this slicer and dicer has a plate on each corner where you hold it (that’s the feature) which means you will not lose the end of your finger while you make beautiful sliced tomatoes, and that’s important, isn’t it? (that’s the benefit).”

If we don’t have staff members speaking like that where they can, we lose. Tougher customers today are expecting store staffers to be at least as knowledgeable as the information on the internet about what they sell.

Peter Charness
BrainTrust

1 through 4 are timeless and no less important today than ever. Getting the message out (5) among all the competition for mindshare and attention has gotten a lot trickier.

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

Marketing, in general, has become trickier (more options does not mean better marketing). I agree that gaining – and retaining – share of mind (and ultimately share of wallet) has never been more difficult.

Michael Decker
BrainTrust
I like this point of view a lot. Against all expectations, COVID-19 has increased consumer appreciation for branding. Most pundits would say a faltering economy puts the consumer into a survival mode where commodity price becomes the only variable in making purchase decisions. What they miss though is the emotional side of human nature. While pricing remains critical, the consumer marketplace is also putting a premium on what brands stand for. There is a certain anger in the market — particularly by young people — who are now dedicated to finding better ways to live their lives and do business in ways that stand apart from traditional corporatism and profit-first mentalities. Branding is a long term strategy that lost much of its luster in our instant gratification culture as of late. The tragic loss of life that coronavirus has exposed most of us to over these past six months has put a new perspective on what’s really important — making our world a better, more livable and sustaining place. Aligning with a brand’s promise to… Read more »
Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

Fantastic insight! Thank you for sharing, Michael.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Brands, as always, need to be credible, relevant to the intended audience, agile to adapt to changing environments, and durable in their messaging. Plain and simple — it’s just not always easy to accomplish.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

With more time and in many cases fewer discretionary funds, consumers are making decisions more consciously. Retailers and brands that take the time to understand consumers’ mindsets, needs, wants and aspirations and offer useful solutions (products and services) via relevant channels and messages will be rewarded with revenue and loyalty.

Casey Craig
BrainTrust

As with our personal lives, the pandemic has forced brands to rethink how they interact and connect with consumers. You can no longer rely on a great brick and mortar experience to build consumer loyalty. Instead, you need to meet consumers where they are — in their homes. This means brands must go digital. Additionally, consumers today expect more than just a great product from the brands they shop with. They expect brands to stand for something and to speak into the cultural and political conversation of the day. This has created a complicated environment for brands that try to appeal to a wide range of consumer personalities. In the age of social media and cancel culture, it’s increasingly difficult for brands to successfully navigate the conversation and offer broad appeal.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The COVID-19 crisis has significantly increased the importance of a brand’s values as a reason for a customer to buy from them. "
"...the secret to conveying a brand’s promise and its attributes in messaging would be two things: be decisive and follow through."
"I like this point of view a lot. Against all expectations, COVID-19 has increased consumer appreciation for branding."

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