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Features vs Benefits
Features vs Benefits
Features vs Benefits
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Overview

Which of the following options are more effective? 'ModelThinkers is a growing collection of the big ideas from the big disciplines ...

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Actionable Takeaways
  • Understand how you currently describe your offer

Do you currently list features or benefits in your mark ...

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Limitations

There are many variables to take into consideration when choosing between features and benefits to market your product: product type, market saturation, competition, the focus on customer relationship or on solving a customer’s problem, and so on. While leading with benefits is normally the correct play, there are exceptions, particularly for a highly informed consumer or highly competitive and consistent market.

Another limitation of this approach is the inherent risk of targeting benefits. A feature can potentially be interpreted by different audience segments with different needs — so several groups might find relevance and appeal in a feature. 

By contrast, a benefit tends to be a targeted message that can exclude as many people as it targets. This relates to the key takeaway of market research and understanding your audience. 

In Practice

Slack - killing meetings. 

Slack is now being challenged by Teams and other competitors but for a time was one of the fastest-growing platform solutions in the world. Rather than focusing on features, their marketing messages highlighted specific data on how companies who adopted their solution reduced emails and meetings — two huge pain points in the corporate world. 

iPod - 1,000s of songs. 

When iPods launched they famously avoided ads which emphasised their (at the time) impressive storage capacity. Instead, they focused on the opportunity to have ‘thousands of songs in your pocket’.

Unboxing videos

By contrast to the examples above, the growing popularity of unboxing videos on Youtube reflects an appetite for feature-focused discussions for some products.

Build your latticework
This model will help you to:

Features vs benefits is a fundamental mental model in the field of marketing and communication. It can be used more broadly to influence and explain value in any context. 

Use the following examples of connected and complementary models to weave features vs benefits into your broader latticework of mental models. Alternatively, discover your own connections by exploring the category list above. 

Connected models: 

  • Cost-benefit analysis: in establishing the actual value for a customer or target group.
  • Opportunity cost: in establishing the next best value. 
  • Value proposition: providing clear benefits to customers. 
  • Personas: to fully understand your customers. 

Complementary models: 

  • Inversion: consider how to deliver pain or make a problem worse to test out the real value of a benefit.
  • The golden circle: identify the ‘why’ behind the features to solve underlying value-driven problems.
  • Red queen effect: competing on features alone is considered to be a ‘race to the bottom’, as it focuses on value and features. Benefits can provide a broader, sometimes emotional connection with new market opportunities.
  • Lock-in effect: how to reduce attrition by delivering on benefits. 
  • Diversification: testing whether a specific product feature can fulfil multiple benefits from diverse audience segments. 
  • The BCG growth-share matrix: when considering marketing and market share.
  • The 4Ps of marketing: when developing a marketing strategy.
  • A/B testing: to test hypotheses about possible benefits and marketing language.
Origins & Resources

The Features vs Benefits mental model has been a cornerstone of marketing conversations for decades. There are many useful articles in this space, we particularly enjoyed this one from Vappingo which outlines over 100 examples of features vs benefits.

My Notes

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