When working on positioning statements with clients, we start by finding a unique, true consumer insight grounded in a need or problem, and crafting a benefit statement—what the consumer "gets" from that product—that responds to that need or problem. To do this, we explore lots and lots of benefits, from the functional to the emotional. Knowing that the emotional benefits are more likely to really resonate with consumers, we use the “So What?” technique to move from functional to emotional to find something that a consumer would actually say or agree with—this is called Benefit Laddering.
Let me share a personal example of benefit laddering I thought of while watching my son’s baseball game recently. I heard that last season the opposing team's coach had received complaints for how harshly he treated the kids. In contrast, I look at our team's coach, who is a great combination of teaching and encouraging, and I think, "does this other guy even realize what his legacy is going to be? What would you rather be known for—building self-esteem or driving paralyzing fear?" I want to ask some of the other coaches I've seen in action that very same question—What is the benefit you are delivering to those kids?
Here's how that would look in a "So What?" Benefit Ladder:
- Coach A – I give them criticism so they can improve.
- Coach B – I give them criticism so they can improve.
- Coach A – I give them criticism so they can improve (by yelling at them).
- Coach B – I give them criticism so they can improve (constructively followed by praise).
Let’s look at Coach A:
"I give them criticism so they can improve." That’s the benefit as perceived by the coach. But if you ask the kids, here’s what you’ll get: "He yells at us." So What? "So I feel like I'm doing a bad job. So I will be afraid of trying because I'll be afraid of getting yelled at again. So I'm paralyzed with fear when it's my turn. So I’ll feel bad about myself."
Now, how about Coach B:
"I give them criticism so they can improve." Same benefit perceived by a different coach. If you ask the kids here’s what you’ll get: "He corrects me but also praises me." So What? "So I know he knows I'm doing my best. So I feel supported. So I'll try harder. So I do even better. So I feel great about myself."
When you are working on developing a positioning statement, make sure you have some "So What?" level, emotional benefits—even if you aren't going to articulate them in the final positioning.
So when you are working on developing a positioning statement, make sure you have some "So What?" level, emotional benefits—even if you aren't going to articulate them in the final positioning—and that they reflect the way you want to be perceived. Then think about the functional benefits your product is delivering and make sure you are truly delivering them. If you are, they can lead to really fantastic emotional benefits for the consumer. If you aren’t, the "So What?" might not be headed in the right direction for your brand.
©2014 Ideas To Go, Inc. All rights reserved.
Beth Storz is President and Innovation Process Facilitator at Ideas To Go. She co-authored the book, "Outsmart Your Instincts: How the Behavioral Innovation™ Approach Drives Your Company Forward." Beth has been a guest on many innovation podcasts and her work has been featured in media outlets such as HuffPost and Fortune. Beth holds a BS in Business Management from Cornell University and a MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business, and has worked in brand management at some of the premier consumer packaged goods companies—including Unilever, Kraft and Nabisco. Since joining Ideas To Go, Beth has established herself as a leader in the Innovation landscape and designed and facilitated projects for hundreds of companies—from CPG to financial services to pharmaceuticals.