The Head Vs. The Heart: A Freelance Advertising Copywriter’s Take on Features and Benefits

If you’re a business owner, your product or service has both features and benefits.  Both are important in the advertising and marketing process, but there is a critical difference between the two that can really be boiled down to this:  features appeal to the head, while benefits appeal to the heart.

A feature is a characteristic of your product or service.  For example, you may offer the lowest prices in town, or the highest quality product or the best customer service.  You may have a different approach to doing what you do or do it faster than the other guys. These are the features you offer for your product or service that consumers rationally weigh to make purchasing decisions.

A benefit, on the other hand, is the extra special something the customer gets when they purchase your product or service.   While the list of product features will appeal to the rational part of us, the benefits of buying or purchasing a product or service may appeal to our emotions.  Benefits give us an emotional connection to the product–a resulting good feeling, like security, love or status.  The benefit might also be a byproduct of buying the product—saving time, money, or hassle.

A good example of this is in the fashion world, where many of us are apt to “pay for the label” in our clothing.  While we may be able to buy a similar shirt, in a similar style from somewhere else, we may want the real thing from the original designer.  Even when the real shirt and the facsimile shirts have indistinguishably similar features, we feel the benefit of buying from the designer.  We are wearing a “genuine” brand and it makes us feel good, successful, or rewarded in some way.

In marketing communications and website copy, it is always preferable to emphasize benefits over features to tell the audience not just what you do, but what great outcome they can expect when they choose you.   However, in advertising, when a company’s offering is truly unique and has a feature that is not available from the competition, advertising the feature can be very effective.

 Advertising to the Head

Years ago, the advertising company Dyson had an ad with a simple headline. “Others Clog. Ours Doesn’t.” This advertisement goes straight to the head, and the feature.  It  appeals to our rational decision–making process. If I don’t want my vacuum to clog, I should buy a Dyson. It’s that simple.

No finesse and subtly here, but the ad works because they are making a claim that other vacuums either cannot, or have chosen not to attempt to make.  The sheer fact that they make the claim so plainly holds power in itself. We think to ourselves, this feature must really perform!

However, for companies whose product is mighty similar to the competition’s, they may need a more emotional appeal focused overtly or subtly, on benefits.  Take insurance for instance. 

Advertising to the Heart

This ad goes directly to the heart, doesn’t it?  It is obviously meant to evoke some emotion and it certainly does. We all put ourselves in the place of the car’s owner and inwardly groan.  How would we deal with it?  State Farm Insurance tells us they would be there to help and thereby exploits a key business benefit that we all know to be true: it’s good to do business with people you know.  And State Farm is there to remind us that they are the people you know, our “good neighbor.”

Nike is an established brand of quality footwear but they have many worthy competitors who offer products with similar features.  So, they wisely choose to advertise a benefit.

How does it feel to wear Nike? What can it help you achieve? Nike attempts to appeal to us all and exploits the benefit we can derive from having the right footwear. All we need is Nike to find our greatness, and do what we need to in order to succeed, whether or not the odds are against us.   It’s a powerful, emotional message very subtly presented as a benefit to buying Nike shoes.

Have you thought about the features and benefits of your product and services?  It’s the first step to deciding how you would put together an ad.  Does your product or service offer a feature not available from the competition?  Or do you need help determining the benefits of your products to put together a good ad?  I’d be happy to discuss it with you.  Contact me for a free consultation.