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Sunday, February 19, 2012




It was just about two years ago that we issued one of our weekly Dispatches entitled, “Say It With Feeling.”  That one dealt with the really tough challenge virtually every brand-builder faces in crafting a meaningful, differentiated emotional need-benefit into the brand’s positioning.  And we offered several suggestions toward this end.  One of those was to check out what other brands have done to effectively find a meaningful emotional benefit--even to take ownership of that emotional benefit.


This week we would like to highlight a few of our favorite brand “models.”  But first, let’s reprise a few basics about emotional needs & benefits:


  • Emotional needs and benefits are about feelings.  Nearly everyone agrees with this, but when it comes time to articulate a feeling—in the form of a benefit statement—all too often what results is not a feeling at all.  For example, we often hear marketers in the medical field call “getting my quality of life back” a feeling.  But that’s, quite literally, a functional outcome of the medication or the procedure…not an emotional feeling.  To get to the emotional feeling that comes from getting one’s quality of life back, you have to ask, “And how, then, does that make the patient feel?”  It might be that the patient feels, for the first time in many years, the spirit of youthfulness.  There’s a simple way to separate functional outcomes or benefits from emotional feelings:  always start with the verb to feel and fill in the blank (as in “So you will feel___________________________.”)


  • Going with “usual suspect” feelings rarely works any more.  There are probably no more overused feelings in brand positioning statements today than the following:  feel confident; feel in control; feel empowered; feel you’re doing your best; and feel smart.  They are so commonly chosen by so many marketers that they have lost any differentiation power they may once have had.  The hard truth is that, when brands choose one of these common feelings they really haven’t done their homework…they don’t have any good, in-depth understanding about what feelings their brand delivers to its loyal customers or consumers.  So, in effect, these usual suspect feelings become a kind of “dead wood.”


  • There’s a big difference between an emotional need-benefit in the brand’s positioning and an emotionally-told story in the brand’s communications.  There are many examples of brands with only rational, function benefits in their brand positioning statements but with advertising that was delivered with some feeling.  The first direct-to-consumer advertising campaign that the Lipitor Brand ran in the U.S. was focused on the brand’s single, functional benefit:  lower cholesterol numbers.  But some of the television ads featured “worried” husbands and wives as they spoke with their doctor about how to better lower one’s cholesterol.


  • Emotional needs and benefits should link logically to the brand’s functional ones.  Perhaps this is obvious; we already implied it in our example about linking the “quality of life” benefit to the feeling that would engender.  But, as we have also advised our clients over the years, it really does make sense to construct a “benefit ladder” (or, for that matter, a number of benefit ladder options) so that everyone on the brand team can visually check for the logic-linkage from product benefit to customer/consumer functional benefit to emotional benefit in the brand’s positioning.


  • Finally, you have to be intellectually honest:  ask yourself, “How does my brand deliver such and such a feeling better than another brand?”




So, getting back to some of our favorite models—of brands that have quite effectively chosen, developed, and in some cases taken ownership of certain meaningfully differentiated emotional benefits--here they are:


  1. Gatorade—Feel Like a Winner.  How can you not admire what this brand has done to develop (and own) this simple but powerful emotional benefit?  They could have settled, perhaps, for “feel confident when you workout or compete.”  But that would have been a feeling any sports beverage could come up with.  Instead, the brand sought to get to that more distinctive, deeper, and real feeling that athletes of any level aspire to:  the winning feeling.  And, when you look at how well they have developed and taken ownership of this feeling, it’s impressive.  In their ad campaigns, sure:  “Is it (the winning spirit) in you?” and now “Win from Within.”  But also in their long-term sponsorships of winning sports athletes and their leagues; and in their creation of the Sports Science Institute—committed to helping alpha athletes win even more.


  1. Curves—Feel Amazed (at Yourself).  Here’s yet another brand that could have taken the easy way out and simply opted for “feel confident (this time) you can succeed.”  After all, their target consumers include many women who have tried and failed many times at weight loss and getting fit.  But they didn’t opt for the usual suspect emotional benefit.  It seems clear that they dug deeper to understand what the unique Curves approach (simple exercise routines, supportive women to work out with, and no men) provided functionally and emotionally to their target.  And how many times have you heard another brand promise that experiencing it will make you feel amazed?  As their new key copy words aptly state, “Your Curves Will Amaze You.”


  1. MasterCard—Feel You Know What Really Matters (in Life).  When MasterCard added this emotional need-benefit to its brand positioning in 1997, it not only came up with something other brands hadn’t; it also came up with something that Visa and American Express could not easily imitate.  Back then, if you recall, those two powerhouse credit card brands were fighting over the “feel you’re important” or “feel privileged” emotional terrain.  Both brands had, in fact, invested heavily for years trying to take ownership of the prestige-feeling need-state.  So, MasterCard really ran away with a differentiated emotional benefit…that was also, by the way, well-grounded in the reality of the times—at least for their target consumers, the “credit card pragmatists.”


  1. Depuy (Knee & Hip Replacements)—Feel the Joy of Motion.  While the brand no longer communicates this precise emotional benefit in its patient information, we still admire the way they articulated this unusual—and meaningful—emotional benefit for several years.  Again, like many other medical device brands, they could have linked their innovative knee and hip replacements to something quite ordinary:  “feel smart that you chose Depuy.”  But they didn’t.  They obviously spoke with their target patients and physicians at great length; if anyone in your family has had a joint replacement, perhaps you have heard them say, “I feel so overjoyed to have my motion back!”  It’s a legitimate feeling that so many patients experience—especially since so many typically put off the surgery too long, and then realize afterwards what they were missing.


Take a look around yourself.  And not just in your own category.  There are some really good brand models out there, and once you study and appreciate how cleverly they have articulated and developed a meaningfully differentiated emotional need-benefit, well, you’ll be inspired!


Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney


Richard Czerniawski

430 Abbotsford Road

Kenilworth, Illinois 60043

tel 847.256.8820 fax 847.256.8847

reply to Richard: or



Mike Maloney

1506 West 13th

Austin, Texas 78703

tel 512.236.0971 fax 512.236.0972

reply to Mike: or

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