Don’t come at me with all those features and benefits!

Scott Harwood | Creative Director Marketing

Clark Stanley hawking Snake Oil Liniment

The old-school marketing approach of defining your niche and then trumpeting your uniquely tailored features and satisfying benefits has been a bread and butter strategy since Clark Stanley first registered Snake Oil Liniment.

Over time, advertising agencies have become impressively sophisticated in highlighting those features and benefits. We’ve learnt to fight the 15 signs of ageing (with Photoshop) and we all know there’s 11 herbs and spices in the Colonel’s special recipe. Marketers have relied on reach and repetition, often with a dash of humour or envy, to convince customers that of Coke is indeed ‘it’ (or was it ‘real’?).

We’ve bought into the promise of becoming better, faster and stronger, and we’ve told ourselves we’ve come to rational decisions based on those convincing features and benefits.

But is that what’s really happening? 

Savvy marketeers are coming to realise that the decision to buy, join up or at least pay attention to something has little to do with logical, rational thinking and more to do with feelings.

That’s right, I’m talking about those squishy, often vague, ‘gut feelings’.

It turns out that decisions to engage with a brand, get behind a cause or even vote for a political party are made very quickly and often quite subconsciously. Those features and benefits merely serve to help us rationalise a decision we’ve already made. The research and the results of marketing strategies that lead with emotional engagement have confirmed this.

In amongst the white noise of brand messages we’re inundated with on a daily basis, how does a brand stand out? How is it relevant? How can it drive a desire for engagement?

The question marketeers need to ask is what is the value proposition? The best way to answer that is to put yourself in the shoes of those you’re talking to. “How is what your offering me relevant to me?” “Does this enhance my life emotionally, socially, materially?” “Does it fit with my cultural values?” “Will my social tribe accept it?”

You need to tell people what you mean, what matters, what you care about and why is it might be important to them.

There’s some great examples of this in action on our TV screens now, such as the Vogels’ What do you bring to the table TVC and the Vodafone’s Bucket List – both of which I’ve heard bring a tear to the occasional eye.

The lessons from all this?

Try to mean something more than your physical specification, and don’t be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve.