Written by Jerry McAdams

Features and benefits in advertising


Any given advertiser knows their product comes complete with its own features and benefits.

Any given advertiser also knows that sales are made on benefits, not features.

But ask an advertiser to tell you the difference between a feature and a benefit, and you may well draw a blank.

Is it a feature or a benefit

Take a quick look at the following list...

  1. 64-bit processor

  2. You get your work done faster

  3. 1 megabyte of RAM

  4. Powerful enough to do everything you're going to want to do

  5. 19 inch 1200x1600 TFT LCD

  6. A big clear screen that doesn't take up much space on your desk

I'm sure you already know the odd-numbered items are features, and the even-numbered items are benefits. It's pretty obvious when they're listed this way.

People make their buying decisions at an emotional level, which is why its the benefits offered by your product that ultimately influence the sale. This doesn't mean that features aren't important too. Features help establish the credibility of your claim, and may also provide the buyer with a rational justification for the purchase.

Features and benefits both belong in your ad. The key is knowing when to introduce them, and how to best put them to use.

What is a benefit?

A benefit is a desirable outcome that arises through the use or ownership of your product. For example, the benefits of car ownership may include...

You can regard something as a benefit, if it clearly describes an improvement in the buyer's life. It's not a benefit if the buyer has to translate the meaning of what you say. For example...

High-performance may be a benefit to a buyer of a sports car
A V12 engine is the feature that enables the benefit.

The buyer must translate the phrase V12 engine into a benefit (i.e. V12 = fast).

What is a feature?

A feature is some aspect or component of a product that delivers an outcome. For example, a V12 engine delivers speed.

Its certainly true that some features are so well understood by the buyer, they're instantly translated into benefits. Despite this, your ad should still describe the benefit.

This is because the buyer responds to the benefit on an emotional level. What's more, the buyer may not be interested in the specific features that deliver the desired benefit.

The buyer's subconscious will bring your ad to the attention of his/her conscious mind, as soon as it detects the particular benefit that motives him/her. If your target market are speed-freaks, you better make it very clear that your product delivers plenty of speed.

Lead with your #1 benefit

Your ad must lead with the product's #1 benefit. That is, the number one thing your target market most wants to get from a product like yours.

And by lead, I mean start talking about the benefit in the ad's headline.

Here are two examples that illustrate the point. Which of these would you put at the top of your ad?

Free Ads Posting


Do this, and you'll earn $25 million

Do this, and you'll never have to work again

It's a tricky choice to make, isn't it? After all, $25 million is a lot of money. But that first headline isn't without its problems...

The first headline asks the reader to think. It forces the prospect to use a technical part of his/her brain, and translate the amount into a clear benefit. The problem with doing that right at the start of an ad, is we don't want the reader thinking in technical terms. We want the reader to start fantasizing. We want him/her getting excited about the opportunity discussed in the ad.

We want the reader to respond on an emotional level.

If the reader is bogged down with facts and figures, he/she isn't getting excited. Despite the large sum of money being discussed, the ad starts out with the reader in the wrong frame of mind.

Benefits are exciting

The second headline puts the reader in a different frame of mind. Instead of dealing with facts and figures, it talks about the benefit directly. No thinking involved!

This greatly increases the chance that the reader will accept the statement at face value. And if that happens, the reader will start day-dreaming about the joys of not having to work. This will motivate the reader to find out what it is he or she has to do. It has the prospect start reading the ad.

Benefits are exciting. The benefit is the thing people who buy the product actually want. For example, a car-buyer doesn't really want a specific brand of car. The buyer wants whatever he or she thinks that brand signifies. It might be prestige, performance, environmental responsibility, fuel economy, size or safety.

Of course, your ad can't dwell exclusively in benefits. A product's features are important too, because they lend credibility to the benefit on offer.

An ad headline should get the prospect interested enough to read the ad. The introduction should build on this interest. Once you've secured it, the reader will want to know why your product is able to deliver the promised benefit. And this is the point where you should introduce the product's features.

Each feature ought to be explained with the benefit (or benefits) in mind. It must be made perfectly clear to the prospect exactly what benefit a particular feature delivers.

Features belong in the middle part of the ad. They're there to help the reader understand how the product delivers on the claims (benefits) made for it. The ad must then end by talking about benefits.

End with the benefit

The buyer wants the desired outcome (benefit) that comes with owning or using the product. A prospect will buy only if he/she believes the product will deliver those benefits. The middle part of your ad should prove that your product delivers everything you claim for it.

You must then turn your focus back to the product's benefits. Remember, a person responds to your product on an emotional level. He or she will make a buying decision based on the benefits alone.

Your ad needs to close by restating the benefits, now made credible in the mind of the buyer, and explain exactly what the prospect has to do to get the product.

In particular, you should find a way to remind the prospect that the main benefit is available just as soon as he/she places an order.