Inexperienced marketers tend to fall back on a benefit-focused approach, believing they’ll win customers by listing their virtues (better products, better customer service, technical improvements, etc.)
Unfortunately, most practical benefits don’t address the issues that really frustrate consumers: the higher needs of affiliation, aspiration, and identity.
Instead, they treat consumers as logical, dispassionate decision-makers who carefully weigh out decisions and select the option with the best benefits. They fail to acknowledge even seemingly practical decisions are, in reality, nearly always driven by emotion. (And yes, this absolutely applies to B2B environments as well.)
Fact-oriented language of basic physical needs doesn’t carry over to the subtle, intangible traits of products and services aiming to satisfy consumers’ higher needs.
That’s why most marketing materials (regardless of the quality of copywriting and design) fail to perform — they simply have no deep connection to what consumers actually want.
The failure of most marketing efforts to connect with consumers on an emotional level is understandable; it’s really hard to do it well. If you’re used to simply making claims (“Our product performs 20% better than the competition!”), you’ll find yourself at a loss when you try to apply this to the world of emotion (“Our product makes you feel 20% more confident!”).
The problem lies with the misconception that the best way to sell a product is to talk about the product itself.
When you’re dealing with consumers’ higher needs, the experience surrounding the product can actually become the primary source of value, with the product or service becoming merely a vehicle for that experience.
Far from being a layer of superficial gloss added on top of the business, the experience really should represent the fundamental character, purpose, values, and drive behind the business. It must be deeper than the individual products and services offered, and it should be what remains as products themselves change over time.
A well-defined experience is almost like a theme park for consumers, giving them a carefully-crafted context that helps them get closer to certain emotions or feelings. Starbucks isn’t about coffee, McDonald’s isn’t about burgers, and Coke isn’t about carbonated beverages. These products are just vehicles for companies that bring us closer to achieving feelings of affiliation, aspiration, and identity.