Marketers Focus on Benefits to Position Brands

Here’s a gold mine for marketers on positioning.

I recommend a new book about marketing and positioning your brand, called The Brand Benefits Playbook: Why Customers Aren’t Buying What You’re Selling – And What to Do About It.

Written by marketing professors Allen Weiss, Ph.D., and Debbie J. MacInnis, Ph.D., the book is chock full of marketing zingers that too often ring true:

  • “Marketing decision-making typically lacks a coherent framework.”
  • “Marketing, unlike most other functions in an organization, does not have a standard, agreed-upon vocabulary.”
  • “Marketing myopia happens when we focus on a product, industry, vertical or demographic instead of the benefit that customers want.”
  • “85% of new product launches fail due to inadequate market segmentation.”
  • “Organizations have shifted their attention from customers to data acquisition and management. What is lost is emphasis on customers and the benefits they seek.”

Customers want three types of benefits

Weiss and MacInnis focus on benefits, benefits, benefits. As we say regularly in our blog, brands need to answer customers’ first question first: “What’s in it for me?”

The authors lay out a process to identify benefits that customers might want, learn how customers view your brand through the lens of benefits, and segment your market based on benefits. Markets tend to have three to six distinct segments.

All benefits fall into one of three types:

  1. Functional benefits “provide solutions to problems so that customers feel they have control over their environment.” For example, you can help customers conserve or grow resources such as time and money.
  2. Experiential benefits “engage your customers’ five senses as well as their thoughts and feelings.” Help customers feel warmhearted or entertained.
  3. Symbolic benefits “enrich customers by resonating with their identity,” present, past and future. The feeling of doing the right thing, living consistently with your values, is one example. 

Research shows that the most admired brands deliver all three types of benefits.

Use this playbook to position your brand

The authors provide a complete positioning playbook. For example, their process helps you choose a target segment and articulate your brand position in light of the most important benefits to customers in a segment. You check to see whether your positioning is credible and defensible through competitive games (war games).

And you learn how to make your positioning resonate throughout the steps in the customers’ journey. Then, grow your brand based on benefits. “It is essential to get as many people involved in the positioning process as possible,” the authors say.

Here are more nuggets of wisdom you’ll find in this book:

“If you focus on benefits while positioning a brand, you are focusing on what customers really want … Benefits help customers reach their goals and reduce their pains.”

Once you have a clear defined and agreed-on positioning, you’re ready to create your messaging.

Co-create a Message Map to get everyone on the same page, which saves time internally. “Your message platform guides all touchpoints that customers have with your brand so that they speak with one voice and in the same language.”

Marketers will find many valuable benefits in this book on positioning. Here are more.