Creating a value proposition

How do you create a compelling reason in the consumer's mind to purchase your product? Begin by effectively communicating its functional and emotional benefits

In my January article, I reviewed the importance of building a proprietary brand identity to support product differentiation in the marketplace. Once that identity is established, the critical process of translating that identity into meaningful consumer language begins. In other words, it's not enough to have a good idea if you can't tell people about it in an effective and persuasive manner. I call this step building or communicating a value proposition.

Consumers buy products and services because those products provide unique satisfaction of needs or wants. That exchange brings the consumer something of worth for monies expended. The job of advertising, packaging and sales promotion activity is to compellingly communicate brand value. The ultimate goal is to move the customer along the path from brand awareness to brand acceptance to brand trial.

So what is a value proposition? It's a summary of the persuasive and relevant reasons why the customer should buy your product or service. It flows out of your brand positioning and brand identity. It comprises two major components: functional benefits and emotional benefits.

Power in a pixie stick
Functional benefits include the practical and physical advantages featured in your product. This might be how the product is packaged, the dosage form or delivery system, unique colouration, or some extraordinary ingredient. For example, when Hero Nutrition was looking to introduce a new supplement for kids, they discovered an opportunity to package it in a 'pixie stick' delivery system for powdered supplements. Kids love pixie sticks. Moms love that kids love pixie sticks. This delivery system makes kids happy and mom's job easier. Win win. And so Yummi Blast was born.

Emotional benefits relate to how the product or service will make the consumer feel. How will they interact with it? How will it affect their daily lives? Will its convenience make her day go better? Will it improve his love life? Will it allow them both to spend more years together free of disease? Will it make someone feel important? You get the idea. The point is that it's hard to overestimate the degree to which people buy products and services for emotional reasons that are not necessarily rational. It's why people spend more for a Lexus, why women pay more for lingerie from Victoria's Secret, why men go to the gym every night when they would rather stay home. People remember what they felt long after they've forgotten what they heard. Never forget that consumers buy with their hearts as much as with their heads. So in formulating a value proposition, keep in mind how the customer will relate to what you are selling on a purely emotional basis.

Once you have identified these functional and emotional benefits, then you're ready to begin working on ways to communicate them in a creative and relevant manner. Creativity is necessary because research shows that people react more positively to new stimuli that are different from that previously received. By taking new and distinctive approaches in your marketing communications, be it advertising or merchandising or packaging, you are more likely to attract and maintain your customer's attention. Being relevant underscores the importance of delivering messages in a way that is meaningful and important to him or her, not just to you.

Real World Application
IMG recently helped a Midwest company launch an innovative new brand of liquid soap called Fresh Scents. Through a patented process they had combined liquid hand soap with a separate air freshener in one convenient container. This product had clear functional benefits in its economical, dual-use capability. It also had significant emotional benefits embodied in its boutique fragrances and elegant, sleek bottle design that would complement any d├ęcor. Subsequently, our advertising and merchandising materials reflected both types of benefits with great success.

NutriGrain does the same thing with its Respect Yourself campaign. The functional benefit lies in the low fat content of the bars. The emotional benefit is that because you are what you eat, this low-fat snack will look better on you than a high-fat muffin.

So, to recap, communicating a value proposition means defining the functional and emotional benefits of your product or service and then sharing that message in a creative and relevant way.

Jeff Hilton is president and co-founder of Integrated Marketing Group, based in Utah.

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