TJ And Larissa McDowell

A couple months ago, I was putting my 2 year old daughter down for a nap, and she asked for her Strawberry Shortcake blanket. The blanket was in another room so I didn’t want to go get it (ok, I think it was on the other side of the room, but who cares?). I had another blanket right at the end of the bed, so I started to cover her with that one. She took her binky out – “NO THE STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE BLANKEY”. Again, Strawberry was hanging out at the other side of the room, and I had stuff to get done. I told her the blanket I had was softer, warmer, and bigger. None of that mattered to her. It wasn’t about comfort. It was about a cartoon image on the top of the blanket.

Not Features or Benefits
There’s salesperson wisdom that says that you shouldn’t sell features because features just describe a product as being great from the perspective of the business. Benefits are the selling points for the customer. It’s how the product solves a problem they have. In my daughter’s case though, she didn’t care about features, but she also didn’t really care about the benefits of the blanket that I was trying to give her. In her mind, the branded blanket meant more to her than a long list of benefits. This is what the pushy salesman at the car dealership isn’t getting – being pushy is selling benefits and I tune it out. If the car salesman would try to be likeable first, I’d be much more likely to pay attention.

What’s Logic Got To Do With It?
Our buying decisions may be less about what’s logical than what we lead ourselves to believe. To throw out a quick example, Larissa goes out Black Friday shopping every year because she wants to get the most amazing deals. Multiple times before, I’ve pointed out that for the stuff she’s getting, it would be just as good of a deal to purchase it all online. In fact, it may even be cheaper than the store price. So she breaks it down for me – “TJ, seriously, how much fun would that be?” To me, sitting at home at 10 am in my pajamas sounds a lot better than freezing my butt off in a line hundreds long at 3 am. Of course, then Larissa brings up all my irrational buying behaviors, and her Black Friday logic seems pretty solid. Larissa is shopping at 3 am because it gives her a great story to tell her friends.

The Story
I don’t know nearly as much about branding as Sarah Petty or some of the other photography marketing guru’s out there. The one thing I’m starting to get though is how to tell a story. Basically, that’s what a brand is. It’s the story that your customers believe about your business. If you’re wanting some good insight on how that whole process works, I’d check out Seth Godin’s book All Marketers Are Liars. The book title drives me nuts, but if you can get beyond the title, it’s got some food for thought.

You’re The Expert
I can’t tell you what to do to build a solid brand. Believe it or not, you’re the expert there. You’re the only one who knows how you want your customers to see you. If you don’t know what your business is all about (your story), it doesn’t matter what features or benefits you can brag about. It doesn’t matter that your web guy has “branded” your website and marketing materials. Your brand has to be bigger than just colors and logos. It’s the core values and purpose for your entire business. It’s what drives everything else.

8 Responses to “Brand Over Benefits”

  1. Most of all I liked your ideas about the fact that we should sell not product’s features, but benefits. That’s really true! But the only thing is that we should do it carefully and taking into consideration each detail

    • TJ McDowell says:

      Benefits definitely trump features, but my big point that I’m trying to make (and maybe failing) is that sometimes the story of the product or company trumps both.

  2. johnavery says:

    “Your brand has to be bigger than just colors and logos” – Could not agree more. I believe a brand is all about commitment. If you are there to help the customers when they need you you will stay in their minds for ever and whenever the need something your brand pops up in their mind. Love the stuff you have provided here. Thanks

  3. Interesting and useful – thank you – am just trying to get my branding sorted, and not being a marketing pro, I need all the info like this I can get! :)

  4. Solid post TJ. The concept of branding has really influenced our actions lately in terms of where we market, where we hope to end up price wise, and the image we hope to convey throughout our work. We’ve still got a long way to go with it, but posts like yours assure us we’re heading in the right direction. Cheers!