Those charged with creating a brand have a unique challenge that starts with a product, service, or business that’s based on an
identified need in the marketplace—because even the best branding
and marketing can’t sell or revive something nobody wants. The first
step of creating a successful brand, then, is identifying what makes the
product or service special or unique in consumers’ minds. This requires examining the brand’s functional features along with its practical, emotional, self-expressive, and social/psychological benefits.
1. Functional features are the core
qualities or attributes of the brand. A
functional feature of a pain reliever may
be ibuprofen or acetaminophen. It may
also have other attributes like an enteric
(safety) coating, childproof packaging,
and even a sleep aid.
A service such as a bank account may
offer functional features such as online
bill payment, interest on the balance,
and overdraft protection.
Start by listing all of the functional
features of the brand, noting those that
will have the greatest impact on customers and can differentiate it from the
competition. This may be difficult because functional features are often easy
to copy and may not offer a competitive
advantage. For example, all bottled waters quench thirst, but some have added
vitamins, flavoring, and potassium.
2. Practical benefits are what the
product does for the user, and they are
less tangible than the product’s functional benefits. One pain reliever may
have a fast-acting chemical agent (
functional feature) that delivers relief to
muscles more rapidly than its competition (practical benefit) or a sleep aid
(functional feature) that delivers a restful
night’s sleep (practical benefit).
Practical benefits are based on functional features. A functional feature of
Advil is that it contains ibuprofen. Associated practical benefits are that it
relieves pain and reduces fever quickly
and lasts for four to six hours. Aleve
contains naproxen (functional feature).
The practical benefit is that naproxen
lasts longer than ibuprofen.
For services like Dollar Shave Club,
which ships its customers new razors
every month (functional feature), the
practical benefits are saving money,
never forgetting to buy razors, and no
nicks and cuts from dull razors.
Ask yourself: Do any of the practical
benefits of the brand distinguish it from
the competition or offer customers
something the competition doesn’t?
3. Emotional benefits are how a
product makes the user feel. For exam-
ple, a pain reliever may make the user
feel empowered, younger, and happier
What’s so special
about your brand?
The five levels of branding features and benefits
that help make a product or service unique in
customers’ minds. by Katrina Olson