Should Marketers Promote Branding Or Benefits?


If you’re trying to sell a product or service, there are basically two ways to go. Either you put your marketing dollars into promoting your brand image, or you can try to convince prospects to purchase your product by making a rational case citing facts and benefits. Let me explain this a little further…

When we speak of promoting a” brand,” we’re not really talking about mere products sitting on a shelf. We’re actually referring to a set of beliefs that the prospect has developed about a product or company over time.

A brand, in other words, is a powerful mental franchise that stays deeply embedded in the prospect’s mind. For example, the Volvo brand has come to stand for safety. The Disney brand stands for wholesome, family entertainment. The FedEx brand stands for reliable delivery.

Benefit-oriented marketing, on the other hand, does not try to create or sustain a powerful “image.” Yes. It seeks to persuade by using emotion, just as branding does, but it also uses reason and logic. It does this by identifying problems that the prospect may be experiencing, and demonstrating that the product solves these problems. Virtually all direct marketing is benefits oriented.

Now comes an important question: Which marketing approach should you pursue? Should you try to build a brand, or should you attempt to sell customers with benefits- oriented arguments?

My answer may surprise you, and I’ll put it as bluntly as I can… Forget about branding!

Ah, yes. I know that endless books have been written about the importance of branding. And I know that business schools enthusiastically present case studies in branding strategies. And they are right to do so! The reason I think YOU should stop worrying so much about branding is that (very possibly), you can’t afford it.

That’s right. Penetrating a portion of a person’s belief system, embedding an enduring image in a person’s gray matter, costs BIG bucks.

For example, if I ask you to fill in the line: “You deserve a break today at __________,” you’d have to be in a coma not to know that the answer is “McDonald’s.” You came up with the right answer, of course, because McDonald’s has shelled out zillions of dollars in TV, radio, print, and outdoor media buys to pound the message home.