Are “Benefits” and “Features” Really Dead?

Are “Benefits” and “Features” Really Dead?

by Terry Kent

The Basics:

The traditional method of gaining sales in advertising is to grab people’s attention with “benefits”. By presenting the emotional side of your product, you are trying to get people to think that they “need” it to satisfy their basic urges or to ease some “pain”.

Once you have hooked them with the benefits – you will draw them into a “brick and mortar” store to make a purchasing decision based on what they “think” they need.

For example – take a look at some of the commercials that you see on TV. In the new commercial for Old Navy (TM) – you see a bunch of young, hip people dancing around in baggy pants – and emotional appeal – if you buy these pants you will be young and hip!

However, TV commercials are usually 30 sec. spots – they have to grab attention in 30 seconds. The Web is a different advertising medium. It’s somewhere between the 30-second spot and a “brick and mortar” store. In the “brick and mortar” store you can see the product, touch the product, read the back of the package. In other words – you can check out the product’s “features”. The Web is similar to this. You have the ability to show your products (pictures) and describe them (words). Yet, you may only have 30 seconds to get your “benefits” across – to hook them with the first page of your site.

I think that most marketers agree that the “logical” and the “emotional” decisions behind a purchase are tied together. As marketers – we must provide both the emotional (benefits) and logical (features) to sell our products.

A Theory:

Now – here’s where my thoughts on the buying process on the internet take a different course. First, I am convinced that a website needs both an emotional and a logical appeal to persuade people to buy. However, because the internet is a different medium – I am also convinced that the way that people find products is different than the way they find products in “the real world”. Because people find products in a different way – I believe it may have a direct impact on how we should be writing web copy.

Jaques Werth wrote in the i-sales digest:
“The average American is now bombarded with about 2,400 informational messages a day, according to communications scientists. More educated, urban Americans are exposed to about 8,500 bits of information. This information comes at them both purposefully and randomly, as well as that which they seek out. Thus, there is almost no product or service which they have not been exposed to *generically.* If they have the need and can afford your type of product or service they already know it – at some level.”

The web is a big place. In order to find products on the internet, you have to know what you’re looking for. Do people just “happen” across a site and decide to buy? Probably not – they’ve probably “searched” for a particular site and/or a particular product. They set out to buy something – already convinced of the benefits of the product – or the “emotional appeal” – now they just have to find a company which will give them the features that they want – that website must provide the logic to back up the purchasing decision.

So should we forget the emotional appeal altogether?

No, because it’s not that simple! Still, the buying decision is tied up with both the emotional and the logical.

Brad Smith writes (after an explanation of right brain (emotion) v. left brain (logic) functions):
“For marketers, the important message is this. Even if you can target your market by brain dominance, your message must contain both logic and emotion. The skew of the message will be dependent upon the target group and the product/service that is being presented. A simple example of this would be if you were selling software to engineers. It should have a left-brain logic skew. However, even though engineers have a preference to left-brain decision-making, they have not removed the right side of their brain. There will still be a degree of emotion involved in the final decision.”

First – you must think about your target market. You must know that market like the back of your hand. Then you can make decisions on how much time you will spend discussing the benefits and features of your product.

Here are two examples:

  1. A grandmother is searching the internet for a present for her grandchild. She comes across a site which sells children’s toys. There are lots of toys to choose from. She looks at the Teddy Bears and decides that would be a nice gift. She already knows what a Teddy Bear is – she’s already convinced that the Teddy Bear will make her grandchild smile, will make her grandchild love her more (emotion). Now she wants to know if the Teddy Bear will last for more than a week as the child plays with it. Is it composed of a durable construction? Is it made of fire safe materials? Is it a collectible – will it increase in value over the years? Are other people who have bought from this company satisfied with the product quality? Can she purchase over a secure server and use her credit card? etc. etc. (logic)
  2. Recently we were looking for an online bank. We knew we wanted to do our banking over the internet, we wanted a reputable company that would serve our needs. So the search began. We immediately ruled out any company with a shoddy website (just too unprofessional for a bank!) (emotion) Then we began to search for features. We knew exactly what we needed, we just had to find a bank that offered the right services. (logic) Then we weeded down to the price. Which bank offered the services we needed at the “cheapest” price. (logic.)

You can’t make a purchasing decision without both the benefits and the features. However, I personally feel that the features should outweigh benefits when marketing on the internet – if (and it’s a big IF) your product is already a “known” product.

In your web copy – highlight benefits and target those benefits to your market. More importantly, present a professional image, with an accredited product (build their trust), and describe the features in every detail.

About the author

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About the author

Pretium lorem primis senectus habitasse lectus donec ultricies tortor adipiscing fusce morbi volutpat pellentesque consectetur risus molestie curae malesuada. Dignissim lacus convallis massa mauris enim mattis magnis senectus montes mollis phasellus.