Why the Best Brands Don’t Lead with Product Features

July 21, 2019

Branding Best Practices

Editor's Note: This guest post was contributed by Josh Ritchie, Cofunder of ColumnFive.

If you’re a product company, chances are you at least want to create marketing content that focuses on product’s features. The reasoning here is understandable: features are the quantifiable things that your widget does, that creates value for your customers. It’s no surprise, then, that product features often become the centerpiece of branded content. The problem is that going this route typically results in less effective content marketing. 

Why Leading with Features Isn’t Your Best Bet

Focusing on your product’s features isn’t necessarily wrong; it’s just not the ideal way to present your brand, at least not in your content marketing. 

Sure, product features are useful. Product features provide context; they help people understand what you do and what you offer. They even help people make purchasing decisions (sales content). But, they alone don’t offer a compelling story. 

If leading with product features isn’t the best way to market, then why do so many companies do it? My guess is that most people lead with product features because of a combination of things:

  • Excitement about increasing sales
  • Pressure to increase leads
  • Not knowing there’s a better way
  • It’s the obvious thing to do
  • It’s easier than the alternatives

Yes, the goal of marketing is increased sales, so there’s a tendency to sell what it is you make or do. We want to spell out the characteristics that can benefit our would-be customers so they can make informed purchase decisions. But the problem is that features don’t necessarily communicate benefits. That’s why leading with product features is a weaker strategy. 

Why the Best Brands Don’t Lead with Product Features

The best brands don’t lead with product features because they know it makes people feel like they’re being sold to. It also puts all the work on the customer to analyze all the features and determine whether they even want the features—or if they will even benefit from the product. 

While marketing’s ultimate goal is to increase sales, the tactic to do so is through marketing—not sales. Leading with product features is not marketing. Marketing is attracting people to what you’re doing, who you are, and what your brand stands for. That’s why “selling” should stay out of content. If you’re attracting people to your brand while simultaneously selling them on whatever you’re peddling, the marketing experience will suffer. If you want to sell, you need to create a great buying experience. That starts with great marketing. 

How Do the Best Brands Do Marketing?

The best brands market by focusing on the benefits of their products and services—not their features—because benefits help answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” 

This type of content focuses on the advantages or the value you get by becoming their customer. It paints a picture of an improved state, one that people want in on, and inspires them to take the next step toward making that state a reality. It convinces you that the brand is special, and that you can be special too.

Leading with benefits and presenting them as a solution to a customer pain point is a better approach than presenting product features and expecting customers to piece together why these add up to the benefit that will solve their problem.

Yes, you will eventually need to share information about how your product or service works, but there should be no rush to get into the details.

Examples

Here are two examples of brands that know how to lead with benefits:

1) Casper: The Best Bed for Better Sleep

Casper hinges its entire brand on one promise: helping you get the best sleep possible. They certainly don’t lead with the “revolutionary tech” behind their mattresses. (Nobody’s jumping on a mattress next to a glass of red wine.) Instead, they provide value by helping educate people about how important sleep is. With the Van Winkle’s brand publication, they’ve created a portal to deliver the most up-to-date, interesting content on all aspects of sleep, providing a much needed and highly valuable service to the public. 

2) Patagonia 

Patagonia is not afraid to make bold statements about who they are, what they believe in, and what their mission is. Through their blog The Cleanest Line, they connect with their community via compelling content. It’s a place to share stories about adventure travel alongside stunning photos and first-hand accounts. It gives them an opportunity to showcase outstanding members of the community. It’s also a place to promote the brand’s values—like when Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard published an open letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke with an appeal to preserve public lands. This approach to content allows for open dialogue and a chance to get to know the people who create the brand—and those who consume it. 

Remember: Benefits, Benefits, Benefits

To craft the best, most effective buying experience, make your customers’ job as easy as possible. Don’t bore them from the get-go. Don’t make them work to find the benefits lurking in sales-heavy content. Their time is valuable, so respect it. Put benefits front and center to show your audience how their world could change, then show them the features that will help make that change. 

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