Insights, Benefits, and RTBs
This is the second post in a series of three, in which we dig deeper into the brand key and its component. After exploring the meaning and the importance of Roots, Competitive Analysis, and Targets, we set to discuss the “killer part” of the positioning statement: Insights, Benefits, and RTBs (Reason to Believe). I refer to this set of components as the killer part, because in my experience, when the positioning goes wrong, many of the root causes gravitate around this area. For example, when the insights are not unique enough, the positioning is not differentiating. Or when the senses are vital, but the benefits are not relevant, the positioning tastes just like a watered-down cocktail. Finally, when senses are essential, benefits are applicable, and Reasons to Believe are weak, consumers and customers tend to assume that the promise is not credible, the infamous “lipstick on a pig.” When this relevant set of positioning is robust, the brand promise can withstand any competitive pressure in the marketplace.
The funnel Insights, benefits, and RTBs begin with insights for an apparent reason. They present a unique understanding of the customers and target customers, formulated in an intense action-driven form. First and foremost, insights must be unique: when competitors share the same wisdom, because they study the same reports, look at the same market data, and have access to the same standard consumer research, it is more likely than not that the insights are not unique. In a nutshell, a good understanding derives from a non-standard approach. How can you appeal to customers if you only know what your competitors know? An Effective Brand Strategy begins with an in-depth understanding of consumer needs.
And while I am personally in favor of data-driven insights, I believe that the most potent insights are built through qualitative exercises. For example, co-create ideas with the consumers themselves and ask them to help you formulate the insights. The latter also helps with the relevance: an understanding can be unique but utterly irrelevant from an average target customer’s point of view. Consumers either do not care, or they do not feel the pain enough to be moved to action.
While this seems to be a very intuitive exercise, it is one of the biggest challenges of brand positioning. First and foremost, brand benefits are not product benefits, and they are, too often, confused. And this is particularly true when a brand spans multiple categories, and numerous forms entail different functional benefits.
To understand better, we have already made the point that we consider a three-levels-ladder of benefits: functional, emotional, and societal. The first set delivers what the brand functionally does for the consumers: a streaming service conveniently distributes content, is easy to access, and is free of advertising interruptions. But it also allows for a family moment, a transition from parents to a couple, an “us without the kids” moment for many parents with young children. The latter is an example of an emotional benefit. But what is a societal benefit? With the increasing importance of purpose branding, brands must have a set of benefits that give back and connect with society beyond a merely commercial scope.
Always remember the benefits are what trigger an Emotional Response, and make it possible to establish Customer Loyalty.
RTBs – Reasons to Believe
While the benefits represent the promise of a brand, the RTB is the component ensuring that consumers and partners find that promise credible. In this day, at this time, it is safe to assume that consumers have a negative default mode on brand promises: many loves at first sight, and many more commitments, flings, and relationships between brands and their consumers have been broken by the brand’s over-promise and the product under-performance. So the RTB is the light in the darkness, which convinces consumers to have confidence in the brand.
Of course, the RTB is a dependent function of a benefit: so each gift should have an RTB. Similar to benefits, we then can segment the RTBs into three clusters: functional, emotional, and societal. What makes a good RTB? It depends on several factors: sometimes, the brand’s roots are sufficient, as a denomination of origin for a bottle of wine or the awards gained by a liquor brand. But sometimes it goes beyond that: in the case of Ferrari, the F1 track record of the Scuderia is a strong RTB for Ferrari’s functional promises. Building a good RTB takes a long time, while suffices a faux-pass to undermine it (e.g., too many price promotions, sounds familiar?). This is why the RTB is the litmus test for the brand promise: for every benefit, we should ensure a strong RTB. Otherwise, we should disregard the use, even if we think we can deliver on it.
This concludes our second post on the Brand Key positioning framework, focusing on Insights, Benefits, and RTBs, the critical elements of the target/ brand love/ hate relationship.