Features vs Benefits

The holidays are rife with advertising: “Buy Me”, “Buy This”, “Buy Buy Buy”! One of this year’s best says little, yet is remarkably effective.

 

Why? While revealing a little about a couple of Apple products, no where do you see a product name or price or sale or screen size. Instead, what you see is a profound benefit of using being a part of the Apple family.

 

Every Product Has Features

Apple products have great features. They would even like you to believe they are the best features around. But so do the other guys. They have the best features around too.

 

 

Are the Surface tablet or the Kindle HDX tablet better products than an iPad? If you believe the ads, sure, and maybe for your needs (but in general, critics disagree). But that’s not the point. The point of  these commercials is to promote features:

  • USB Drive
  • Lighter Weight
  • Keyboard
  • Office

The ads would have you believe that the iPad can’t compete with these features, and therefore you should not buy an iPad. These ads mix The Texas Sharpshooter and the Straw Man fallacies to make it seem like their tablet is better.

  • USB Drive : iOS 7 has snappy AirDrop functionality to instantly share photos with friends nearby and access to iCloud or other apps like Dropbox. Is a USB Drive necessary? Maybe, but looking less so. Advantage debunked.
  • Lighter Weight : The Kindle HDX also has a screen thats over an inch smaller, so of course its going to be lighter weight. Compared to an iPad Mini, the HDX is certainly heavier. But only by fractions of a pound. Not enough to be noticeable on a daily basis between the three models. Feature advantage debunked.
  • Keyboard : The attachable keyboard to the Surface is one of it’s best features. But it also looks naked without it and kinda goofy in the more informal settings that an iPad is great for. Advantage remains to the Surface, but I would bet that Apple one day responds with its own version that will be better.
  • Office : A full Microsoft Office suite on a tablet? Sounds awesome until you realize it’s not optimized for touch. There are plenty of apps and productivity tools available for an iPad, even if they aren’t officially Microsoft. Advantage debunked.

The point isn’t that the iPad is the end all of tablets, but that features are easy to poke holes in.

 

Benefits Are Better

Features invite competition and debate. Benefits invite decision.

Talk to any sales person and they will certainly educate you on the importance of selling benefits and not features espoused in this timeless article in Entrepreneur. To put it succinctly: benefits are harder to defeat. You don’t by a new car because it has 200 horsepower; you buy a car with 200 horsepower because a car with 200 horsepower will get you where you want to go faster and while hauling more stuff. If humans were rational beings, features would be the effective way to sell. Unfortunately, humans are neither rational nor logical (You Are Not So Smart is a good read if you think we are). So instead, selling is more effective when people envision themselves where the grass is greener and all is right with the world.

 

Benefits Are Better Without Cheese

Touting benefits isn’t a new concept. Yet it’s important to keep in mind authenticity. People easily see through phony benefits.

Jewelry commercials are some of the worst offenders, twisting the potential benefits to be a unique benefit of their jewelry rather and reinforcing the core benefit their product supports.

The benefit presented in the Apple commercial is that using its products will capture priceless moments and enable you to share them with those you love. After watching, there is no debating the what product is better or which is the better value, but instead the conversation has shifted to ask: do I want this benefit? A complicated field of products has eliminated the competition not by having the best features when compared side by side, but by forcing a simple binary question.