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How Coffee Got Its Sexy Back: The allure of benefits versus features

As I was watching Penelope Cruz on the Nespresso ad, I thought coffee had never looked sexier. Until I saw the George Clooney ad.

In the background, the voice over is telling me a whole bunch of features about Nespresso. They lost me after “Each cup of coffee…” because at that point, I’ve put myself in the picture with George, I’m dressed to the nines, thinner, carefully coiffed and manicured and asking for my espresso—and frankly, I really don’t care about how carefully brewed it is anymore.

They sold me on the romance. They gave me benefits I didn’t even realize I needed. They have made coffee an escape from my possibly hellish day. They have made this dark bitter brew the magic carpet that takes me away. Yeah, I’m sold.

Too often we may try to morph features into benefits, without understanding what our customers really want. Benefits sell an experience. Benefits frequently sell an intangible, an unexpressed and unmet need.

Clothing is flaunted on rail-thin models. Why? Not to give you an accurate idea of how the style will appear on you. It’s to show you how you wish you would look in it. Even Not Your Daughter’s Jeans (NYDJ), a brand catering to the well-rounded figure, doesn’t choose chubby chicks for models. Their models don’t need NYDJ, but the waifish models make you feel you’ll look that good if you buy them. The feature of the jeans is some extra stretchy fabric inside; the benefit is minimal firming. However, the unexpressed benefit—the value—is to make you feel you look better than you actually will. Living the dream.

So even if you are selling business-to-business, think about what the buyer really wants. Do they want safety training that will save money and lives. Sure. Do they also want to look like a hero to their boss, smart to their peers and be eligible for the big bonus. You betcha. Now that’s the benefit to your target audience.

So no matter your industry, benefits should have a visceral appeal and speak to what the client really wants, not just needs. And, that’s sexy.

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