25 Sep 2009
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by fellow copywriter Jamie Hudson.
The 2009 model has a 220-horsepower V8 engine, anti-lock brakes, traction control, automatic safety restraint system and both front and side-impact airbags.
Or how about this?
This ring features a 1.4 carat, pear-shaped cut white diamond with an SI1 clarity grade and an H color rating.
They’re pretty impressive aren’t they? Or are they? They’re just lists of features which actually mean next to nothing to the man and woman in the street. Unless of course, you’re a total petrolhead or diamond expert.
The problem is, lists of features like these don’t make people buy, which is what we’re all trying to do.
Benefits make people buy. Or to put it another way:
Features tell, but benefits sell.
But what is truly incredible is that you see and hear lists of features like these all the time – in ads, in brochures, on websites, on TV commercials.
Very few advertisers even talk about benefits, much less make the effort to get really good at translating features into benefits.
And yet power-packed words describing benefits are what trigger the emotions that make us spend our money, time or energy.
People all over the world of every single nationality, class, colour, race and religion buy because of these emotions.
So let’s look at those two lists of features again. They should read something like:
This car has a smooth, powerful engine, something you’ll appreciate when you pull out to overtake. The extra power will also help you avoid obstacles and quickly get you and your family out of harm’s way, while the extra safety features ensure you’re all safe and secure. And it’s great fun to drive!
Imagine gently slipping this ring onto her finger and staring intensely into her eyes. They glisten as she sees this symbol of your undying devotion, this token of your lifelong commitment to her and your life together. An adoring smile spreads across her face as she looks you in the eye and whispers ‘Yes’…
Turning features into benefits
There’s another term to throw into the mix. Advantages. Simply put, they turn features into benefits.
Here’s how you can compile a list of features and turn them into advantages and benefits for any product or service.
Features are what products have. For example, ‘This pushchair has a durable, lightweight aluminium chassis.’
Advantages are what features do. For example, ‘The durable, lightweight aluminium chassis makes the XYZ strong and yet easy to push.’
Benefits are what features mean. For example, ‘This means that you can take baby for long, relaxing, sleep-inducing walks without tiring. And the XYZ will give you years of trouble-free service, so it could be taking your children’s children for long walks too.’
So, to summarise, you need to interrogate your product or service and write down as many features as you can. But don’t stop there. Work out what the advantages of all these features are. Then turn these advantages into benefits and hammer them home in every single piece of advertising you do.
With over 30 years in the business, Jamie is one of the most experienced – and fastest – freelance copywriters in the Midlands.
He’s worked on numerous above- and below-the-line campaigns at various agencies including Saatchi & Saatchi, GGT Direct, WWAV Rapp Collins, Publicis Dialog, FCB Direct, O&M Direct, EURO RSCG Riley and BIG Communications.