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Brand positioning: Insights, Benefits and RTBs (2/3)

Brand positioning: Insights, Benefits and RTBs (2/3)

Insights, Benefits and RTBs

This is the second post in a series of three, in which we dig deeper on the brand key and its component. After having explored 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 component as 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 really differentiating. Or when the insights are strong, but the benefits are not relevant, the positioning tastes just like a watered down cocktail. Finally when insights are strong, benefits are relevant, 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 the positioning is strong, the brand promise can withstand any competitive pressure in the marketplace.


The funnel Insights, benefits and RTBs begins with insights for a clear reason. They present a unique understanding of the customer, formulated in a strong action driven form. First and foremost it is important that insight be unique: when competitors share the same insights, because the 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 insight derives from a non-standard approach. And while I am personally in favor of data driven insights, I believe that the strongest insights are built through qualitative exercises. For example by co-creating ideas with the consumers themselves, and ask them to help you formulate the insights. The latter also helps with the relevance: an insight can be unique, but completely irrelevant from a consumer point of view, in the sense that consumers either do not care, or they are do not feel the pain enough to be moved to an action.

We discussed in the past about shopper insights, and how to write consumer insights, so we invite the readers to go back to those articles, for a more actionable reading on insights.


While this seems to be a very intuitive exercise, it is actually one of the biggest challenges of the brand positioning. First and foremost, because brand benefits are not product benefits and they are, too often, confused. And this is particularly true when a brand spans multiple categories, and multiple forms entail different functional benefits.

In order 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 on what the brand functionally does for the consumers: a streaming service, distributes content, in a convenient way, easy to access, free of advertising interruptions. But it also allow for a family moment, a transition from parents to couple, an “us without the kids” moment for many parents with young children. The latter is the example of an emotional benefit. But what is a societal benefit? With the increasing importance of purpose branding, brands are required to have a set of benefits that give back, and / or connect with society beyond a merely commercial scope.

Reason 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 promises, flings and relationships, between brands and their consumers, have been broken by the brand’s over-promise and/or 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 benefit should have a RTB. Similar to benefits we then can segment the RTBs in three clusters: functional, emotional and societal. What makes a good RTB? Well it really depends on several factors: sometimes the roots of the brand are sufficient, like a denomination of origin for a 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 benefit, 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, which are the key elements of the target/ brand love/ hate relationship.

Growth Adviser, Innovation Catalyst, Branding Architect, International Expansion Consultant. International change agent and leader, launched growth consulting boutique in 2012. We have four principal areas or intervention 1) Branding (e.g., positioning of new brands, re-positioning of existing brands, brand architecture and design) 2) Innovation (e.g., co-creation with consumers and experts, ideation, business planning, concept validation and fine-tuning) 3) International Expansion (e.g., countries screening and development of expansion plan, route to market strategy, portfolio) 4) Route to Market (e.g. marketing and commercial planning, portfolio analysis).