Should marketers promote branding or benefits?
If you’re trying to sell a product or service, there are two approaches; branding or benefits. Let me explain this a little further…You can put your marketing dollars into promoting your brand image, or you can make a rational case citing product facts and benefits.
When we speak of promoting a” brand,” we’re not really talking about mere products sitting on a shelf. We’re actually referring to a set of beliefs that the prospect has developed about a product or company over time. A brand, in other words, is a powerful mental franchise that stays deeply embedded in the prospect’s mind.For example, the Volvo brand has come to stand for safety. The Disney brand stands for wholesome, family entertainment. The FedEx brand stands for reliable delivery.
Benefit-oriented marketing, on the other hand, does not try to create or sustain a powerful “image.” Yes. It seeks to persuade by using emotion, just as branding does, but it also uses reason and logic. It does this by identifying problems that the prospect may be experiencing, and demonstrating that the product solves these problems.Virtually all direct marketing is benefits oriented.
Now comes an important question: Which marketing approach should YOU pursue? Should you try to build a brand? Or should you attempt to sell customers with benefits-oriented arguments? My answer may surprise you, and I’ll put it as bluntly as I can…Forget about branding!
Ah, yes. I know that endless books have been written about the importance of branding. And I know that business schools enthusiastically present case studies in branding strategies. And they are right to do so! The reason I think YOU should stop worrying so much about branding is that (very possibly), you can’t afford it. That’s right. Penetrating a portion of a person’s belief
system, embedding an enduring image in a person’s gray matter, costs BIG bucks.
For example, if I ask you to fill in the line: “You deserve a break today at __________,” you’d have to be in a coma not to know that the answer is “McDonalds.” You came up with the right answer, of course, because McDonalds has shelled out zillions of dollars in TV, radio, print, and outdoor media buys to pound the message home.
To me it is axiomatic that successful branding takes money that smaller companies just don’t have. This means that you shouldn’t spend a fortune on an expensive logo because it’s “expressing your brand.” Nor should you hire “branding consultants” unless you have the resources to make your message stick!
How then, should you proceed? How can you get the cash register ringing over the short term, and with just limited resources? By creating hard-hitting advertising, direct mail, collateral, etc., that demonstrates to prospects that you deeply understand their “pain points.” And that your product or service provides BENEFITS that can make this pain go away. It’s as easy (and as difficult) as that!
Ivan Levison is a freelance direct response copywriter who works for such companies as Bank of America, Fireman’s Fund, Intel and Microsoft. Levison writes direct mail sales letters, e-mails and ads. For a free subscription to his monthly e-mail newsletter for marketers, visit his Web site at www.levison.com. He can be reached at (415) 461-0672 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.