What Are IDEAs Made Of: Benefits

Mike Rea

IDEA Pharma

What’s the benefit of that?

What does ‘Benefit’ mean? One of the most used and abused words in the world of strategic marketing, but, like so much of the vocabulary traded by its neophytes, it doesn’t often come with a definition…

Benefit is simply defined as the connection between a goal (or a want) of your audience and an attribute/ feature of your product – your product helps them achieve one goal or more (tip: more is good). Here’s the thing – they don’t come in ones. They also don’t come in ladders – at least, not the kind of ladder that would be recognisable to a builder.

Back in the day, agencies would choose a feature, choose an audience member and then force-fit that feature into the benefit space around that person. Then they would find a way to say ‘and what’s the benefit of that?’ a dozen times until they got to ‘more time playing golf’ or ‘more time to run down beaches’ or ‘able to feel like me again’. They would call that a benefit ladder, every positioning would look the same, everyone else would leave the marketers to their rather pointless exercise, and never refer to it again.


“One of the most used and abused words in the world of strategic marketing…”


Back in the real world, your product has dozens of differentiating features, things it does better than anything else. Honestly, it does… Guaranteed. Even a 5th-to-market me-too (like Lipitor, for example…) has something it is best at. You may have more than one kind of audience too (note: by ‘may’, I mean ‘do’, but would hate to be so presumptuous). So now you have many things you are best at, multiplied by the myriad wants of your audiences. A whole galaxy of connections, then, a panoply of opportunity, a fractal explosion of choices for your core proposition.

So, should you ignore them just to make your agency’s life easier? A quick tip would be ‘No’… There is gold in them thar hills, and some digging is only to be expected.

Let’s look again at that definition: “Benefit is simply defined as the connection between a need (or a want) of your audience and an attribute of your product – your product helps them achieve one goal or another.” The benefit is the connection, not a thing in its own right. The goals are discoverable, and the features of the product known to you (or guessable). That is a great start. You should also, to your agency’s horror, spend some time down at the bottom of the ladder, in the space nearest what your product does uniquely.

The benefit of that? The agencies won’t tell you this, but all ladders end up in only a few higher order benefits (life, love, the pursuit of happiness-type benefits) – looking around the ladders’ footings will be much more productive and differentiating.

About the author:

Mike Rea is a Principal with IDEA Pharma, who enjoys taking a look outside the industry to learn how it can think differently. For direct enquiries he can be contacted on mike.rea@ideapharma.com and for more information on IDEA Pharma please see http://www.ideapharma.com/what/default.htm.

The next WAIMO piece will be in early February.

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