All sales points are not created equal — equally compelling, equally persuasive, equally powerful at turning audience members into customers. There’s a hierarchy of four basic types of sales points for any product or service, and Walmart did a great job of taking its brand from the weakest to the strongest.
Let’s start by defining the categories and discussing why one works better than another.
A feature is something built into the product or service. It could be that your facial tissue is air-puffed or that your milk contains vitamin D or that your beer is made with special hops and pure mountain water. Features generally are the weakest of sales points because they’re inside baseball; the brand essentially talking to itself about itself. There are exceptions, though. Enterprise car rental’s “We’ll pick you up” is a feature-based advertising platform that’s worked well for them for many years.
An attribute is a quality or characteristic that results from a feature. With the air-puffed facial tissue we talked about above, the attribute could be softness. With Rheingold, a New York beer that went out of business in 1976, it was that the beer was “Extra Dry,” whatever that meant. In the case of Enterprise, it’s convenience, even though they don’t talk about it specifically. Attributes are stronger than features because consumers can actually see or experience them, but they’re still the brand talking to itself about itself.
A benefit is something good that the brand’s features and attributes do for the customer. With that facial tissue, the benefit could be: When you have a bad cold, our tissue will keep your nose from getting sore. For Schaefer, which was once a leading national beer and is now a niche beer owned by Pabst, the benefit was that you wouldn’t get tired of it. It was “the one beer to have when you’re having more than one.” Most successful advertising campaigns focus on benefits, because benefits talk to the consumer about the consumer (just as “having more than one” talks to heavy beer drinkers who kill a sixpack at one sitting). Any adult in the marketplace who doesn’t think about “what’s in it for me” is either a fool or a masochist.
Sometimes a brand benefit triggers a bigger, broader benefit. Some end benefits are better left implied. With our facial tissue, the end benefit might be: When you have a bad cold and use our tissue, you won’t look like Bozo the Clown with a big, red nose. Saying that insults your audience. Letting them tacitly infer that is good.
And some benefits are stated more or less explicitly, as in the 1970s Miller Time campaign, which positioned that beer as a great reward for a hard day’s blue-collar work.
But when you can take a brand to an end benefit positioning, as Walmart did, you’re doing something very powerful for your sales.
From feature to benefit plus end benefit in just four words
For years, Wal-Mart had been advertising a feature — everyday low pricing. They didn’t even take it as far as the attribute of being economical. Martin thought about several things. They thought about Wal-Mart’s overall strategy of making their stores appeal to more socioeconomically upmarket customers who were starting to shop there. These are consumers squeezed by the seemingly endless recession and not needing to have their noses rubbed in it. So the agency combined a benefit and an end benefit into one clear, simple, four-word statement: Save money [benefit]. Live better [end benefit].
If you can think about your brand and the hierarchy of sales points the same way, chances are you’ll end up living better, too.