It never fails. When a group of people is excited about an idea, they run right into the biggest challenge of moving an idea forward. What is that challenge that plagues all successful innovation teams? Settling on that product's one key benefit.
Why is that so difficult? Because when people like an idea, they want others to like it as well. So they try to benefit-load an idea so that consumers can't do anything BUT love it. The problem is, this method often backfires through benefit overload.
Forbes featured a product highlighting this exact struggle. This amazing pillow, the Pillo1, not only relieves neck pain, improves circulation, and reduces snoring, it helps people fall asleep 19% faster and increases REM sleep by 21% (as validated by independent testing). It also reduces snoring and stays cool at night—all while being eco-friendly, sound-dampening and made in the USA. And a quick probe of their website revealed that the pillow is dust-mite resistant, hypoallergenic, and mold and mildew proof! Not to mention, it was designed by a sleep specialist to maintain ideal spine alignment. Plus, Oprah.com says it's perfect for back sleepers and side sleepers, all in one comfy package.
Sounds amazing, right? Or did you zone out after the third comma?
The truth is, people react negatively to too many options. In a famous Columbia University study, researchers set-up a sampling booth with 24 different varieties of jams. During the time of the tasting, 60% of the customers who came in the store stopped for a taste. But despite all those opportunities to find their perfect jam, only 3% of those customers actually made a purchase.
Then researchers set-up a tasting booth with only 6 varieties of jam. This was less attractive to consumers—only 40% who came in the store stopped for a sample. However, 30% of these consumers bought a jar of jam—10x more than when consumers tasted 3x more jam!
This paradox holds true across industries and across cultures. No matter if it's spaghetti sauce, jam, shampoo, or retirement savings, the more choices people have, the more they delay choosing, make worse choices and choose things that make them less satisfied.
So overwhelming people with choice is a bad strategy. But how does that translate to product benefits?
Imagine if the Lord of the Rings had instead been the Lords of the Rings. What if the books had followed a quest to destroy all the rings of power—instead of just Sauron's? Then the books would have had 20 different storylines with different heros—and Frodo would likely have had to pass the quest on to his own great-grandchildren.
If Tolkien had written about 20 rings, would the book have had the same magic? Would we been able to get as involved with the characters? I doubt it. The story is compelling precisely because everyone has united in one, single, compelling, only-way-to-save-the-world quest.
Just like the Lord of the Rings, products need one, single compelling reason for people to buy. Otherwise consumers get lost in all the possibilities.
So how can you uncover that one benefit to rule them all? Let's take the example of the Pillo1 from above. Look again at the massive list of benefits:
Now, ask yourself: What does that mean? What do you get if it relieves neck pain and reduces snoring? What do you get from it being dust-mite resistant and hypoallergenic?
This is how you uncover the main benefit: this pillow gives you a better night’s sleep. All the other "benefits" are actually supporting reasons why you're going to get that better sleep.
Here's an example of how those above bullets can turn into Reasons to Believe (RTBs) that main benefit:
The Pillo1 will give you a better night sleep because it is:
- Designed by a sleep science expert to maintain ideal spine alignment.
- Made with integrated ‘Bell Core Technology’ ™ that allows individuals to customize the perfect level of firmness for their neck, whether they sleep on their back or side.
- Created with a natural material from rubber trees that forms a hypoallergenic, dust-mite resistant, mold & mildew proof sleeping environment, reducing allergy irritation that leads to snoring.
- Proven in an independent study to help individuals fall asleep faster, sleep more deeply, and enter restorative REM sleep sooner and longer than individuals using standard store-bought pillows.
See how that changes the story of the pillow? You're not overwhelmed by all it can do for you, or trying to choose which benefit matters most. Instead, you're drawn in by a compelling primary benefit, and reassured that there's proof that the product will do what it says.
So when you're developing concepts keep in mind that, just like Frodo's one task was to destroy the One Ring, your goal is to ensure that each product features just one, clear, single-minded benefit that clearly communicates to customers what they get from the product. Best of luck on your quest!
Ideas To Go is a company that develops customer-centered innovation for Fortune 500 companies.
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Ideas To Go is an innovation agency that leads start-ups to Fortune 500 companies through insights exploration, ideation, and idea and concept development while incorporating the voice of the consumer.