In branding we often talk about the importance of building strong value propositions, but what do we mean and how do you create one?
In terms of a definition, a value proposition could be described as:
A statement of the functional, emotional and self-expressive benefits delivered by the brand that provide value to the customer. An effective value proposition should lead to a brand-customer relationship and drive purchase decisions.
That’s great but what so we mean by functional, emotional and self-expressive benefits?
Functional benefits especially those based on attributes, have direct links to customer decisions and how they experience the product in use.
If a brand can dominate a key functional benefit, it can dominate a category.
A great example of a brand that dominated based on functional benefits is Crest. Crest led the toothpaste category for decades with a cavity reducing claim that was supported by an endorsement from the American Dental Association. This value proposition forced competitors to position their brands along inferior dimensions such as fresh breath and white teeth.
The challenge is to select functional benefits that will ‘ring the bell’ with customers and that will support a strong position relative to competitors. The latter task involves not only creating a product or service that delivers but also emphatically communicating that capability to customers through all channels.
Emotional benefits refer to when the purchase or use of a particular brand gives the customer a positive feeling. Here the brand is providing an emotional benefit. The strongest brands are often those that include powerful emotional benefits, for example a customer could feel:
• safe in a Volvo
• excited in a BMW
• prestigious in a Mercedes
• adventurous in a Land Rover
• practical in a Skoda
If we consider Evian, it is simply water. As a product it has potentially uninteresting functional benefits, however, the brand packages its functional benefits as a strong emotional benefit through the message ‘live young’. Communicating emotional benefits in this way adds richness and depth to both the experience of using the brand and of its communication.
To discover what emotional benefits are or could be associated with a brand, the focus of research needs to be on feelings. How do customers feel when they are buying or using the brand? What feelings are engendered by the achievement of a functional benefit?
Most functional benefits will have a corresponding feeling or set of feelings, like the Evian example, the key is understanding the functional benefits and what emotional benefits derive from them.
Self-expressive benefits are when a brand or product becomes a symbol of a person’s self-concept. Here a brand can provide a self-expressive benefit by providing a way for a person to communicate his or her self-image – to be the person they want to be.
Each of us has multiple roles within our lives, for example, I’m a husband, a father, a cyclist, a music lover and I love to travel so I may use brands to help me express my self-concept in each aspect of my life whether it is the car I drive, the bike I ride and clothing I wear when doing so, the places I go on holiday or the places I shop for my daughter clothes.
In general, in comparison to emotional benefits, self-expressive benefits focus on the following:
• self rather than feelings
• public settings and products (for instance, wine and cars) rather than private ones (such as books and TV shows)
• aspiration and the future rather than memories of the past
• the permanent (something linked to the person’s personality) rather than the transitory
• the act of using the product rather than a consequence of using the product
When a brand provides a self-expressive benefit, the connection between the brand and the customer is likely to be heightened.
Building a strong value proposition can be complicated. As we’ve seen from the above there can be a variety of tactics to use and directions to take. The key is to understand the range of functional, emotional and self-expressive benefits that your brand, product and business provide and what combination can help you to capture the most unique position in the market that can then be articulated and brought to life through relevant and engaging communication.