Share this with your network of MarketersShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

The reality with most brands is that great brands can do a few things, that give the consumer a few different functional benefits and a few different emotional benefits. One of the tools I work with clients on is to figure out the clusters, which are the groupings of similar benefits that a brand can deliver, then work to narrow down which of those benefits can stand out as the most motivating to consumers and the most own-able for the brand. What you are looking for is that winning zone where you are meeting consumer needs better than your competitors. To be successful, brands have to be better, different, cheaper…or else they will not be around for very long. This process will help you find your winning zone.

The Consumer Benefits Ladder

The Consumer Benefits Ladder helps turn your brand’s features into consumer benefits. You should stop thinking about what your brand does and start thinking about what your consumer gets.

Consumer Benefit LadderConsumer Benefit LadderThe 4 steps to build a Consumer Benefits Ladder:

  1. Leverage all available research to brief the team, helping define the consumer target profile with consumer insights, need states and the consumer enemy.
  2. Brainstorm all the possible brand features that your brand offers, plus any brand assets. Make sure that these features give your brand a competitive advantage.
  3. Move up to the functional benefits by putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer and for each feature on your list, ask “so if I am the consumer, what do I get from that?” Challenge yourself to come up with better benefits by asking the question up to 5 times, to the answers into a richer zone.
  4. Then move up to the emotional benefits by looking at each functional benefit and then ask “so if I am the consumer, how does that make me feel?” As you did in step 3, keep asking the question until you see a deeper emotional space that you can play in and own.

Functional Benefits

 To help Brand Leaders, I have taken the 9 functional need state zones shown earlier in this chapter and expanded the list to over 50 potential functional benefits that you can build your brand around. As you look through the list, gravitate to the functional benefits you think will fit the needs of your consumers, and where your brand can do it better than competitors. Start with my words and layer in your own creative language with specific category or consumer language.

Functional benefit Cheat Sheet

Emotional Benefits

Below you will find a list of 40 potential emotional benefits. From my experience, Marketers are better at the rational benefits than they are at the emotional benefits. I swear every brand thinks their brand should be the trusted, reliable and yet like-able. As a brand, you want to own one emotional space in the consumer’s heart as much as you own the rational space in the consumer’s mind. When I push Brand Managers to get emotional, they struggle and opt for what they view as obvious emotions, even if they do not fit with their brand. I have used Hotspex research methodology to create a ‘cheat sheet’ with 8 major emotional consumer benefits, that includes optimism, freedom, being noticed, being liked, comfort, be myself, be in control and knowledge. To own a space in the consumer’s heart, brands should own and dominate one of these zones, always thinking relative to what zone your competitor may own. Do not choose a list of emotions from all over the map, or you will confuse your consumer. Use the supporting words to add flavor to your brand positioning.

Emotional benefit Cheat Sheet

Build Around Benefit Clusters

 As you start to make decisions on which benefits your brand will stand behind, I recommend you start by looking at the two cheat sheets and find potential clusters of the functional and emotional benefits, that you believe match up with what consumers want and what your brand does better than other competitors. Below where I have mapped out benefit clusters for Gray’s Cookies, a fictional cookie brand that combines great taste and low calories.

In terms of functional benefits, it makes sense to build the brand around functional benefits such as healthy, sensory and experiences and emotional benefits such as control, knowledge, and optimism. Once you have those benefits, you can apply the unique brand or category language to write out benefit statements. For instance, you could use the clusters to write a functional benefit statement such as “I get a great tasting cookie, as good as my current cookie” or an emotional benefit statement like “I feel in control of my health”.

Consumer Benefit Clusters

Use the brainstorm to populate the Consumer Benefits Ladder worksheet to focus your thinking. Like any brainstorm, you will end up more choices than you can use. 

Consumer BenefitsThe next step beyond the worksheet is to narrow down the list by sorting through the benefits to find those that are the most motivating to consumers and the most own-able for your brand. Use the grid below to evaluate, where the zones match up to the Venn diagram on brand positioning. Think of this as the flattened out version of the 3 circles.

Positioning Grid

Looking at the Brand Positioning Benefit Sort above, you can see on the grid how The “Guilt free” consumer benefit offers the highest potential, as it is highly motivating and highly own-able for the brand. This is the winning zone that matches up to the positioning zones we showed in Chapter 8 on competitive strategy. The consumer benefit of “New favorite cookie” is highly motivating, but falls into the losing zone, as it would be owned by the power player competitor brands in the category. The “Feel more confident” benefit falls into the risky zone. To win this zone, the brand would need to use speed-to-market, creativity or leveraging emotional marketing. Avoid the dumb zone, where the benefit shows up low on motivating and potential ownership. In this case, “More comfort in choices” is neither motivating nor own-able.

Turning it into a Brand Positioning Statement

After doing all the homework, you can now confidently put together a winning Brand Positioning Statement that addresses:

  1. Who is your consumer target? Keep the target focused. Do not be vague in your definition. Never go after two segments at the same time. Bring the target to life with need states, consumer insights and a consumer enemy.  
  2. Where will you play? Define the space you play in, against those brands you compete against. Which competitor do you fight against for the same dollars?
  3. Where will you win? Narrow your benefit down to one thing. Never try to stand for too many things at once—whether too many functional benefits or too many emotional benefits. You cannot be all things to all people. Make sure you talk benefits, not features. Find the ideal space that is unique and motivating to the consumers, while being own-able for your brand.
  4. Why should they believe us? The role of support points is to close off any potential doubts the consumer might have when they see the main benefit. Watch out that these are not just random claims or features that you want to jam into your brand message. They should support and fit with the main benefit.

Brand Positioning Statement


Here’s a powerpoint presentation on how to define your brand, including the benefit cluster tool.

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant

Share this with your network of MarketersShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

Graham Robertson

Graham spent 20 years in Brand Management leading some of the world’s most beloved brands at Johnson and Johnson, General Mills and Coke, rising up to VP Marketing. In his career, he has won numerous Advertising, Innovation and Leadership awards. Graham played a major role in helping J&J win Marketing Magazine’s prestigious “Marketer of the Year” award. Graham brings a reputation for challenging brand leaders to think differently and to be more strategically focused. Graham founded Beloved Brands in 2010, to help brands find growth and make brand leaders smarter. He leads workshops to help define your Brand Positioning, build your brand’s Big Idea, and write strategic Brand Plans that motivate and focus everyone that works on the brand. Our Beloved Brands training programs will help your team, produce exceptionally smart work work that drives stronger brand growth and profits. We cover everything a brand leader needs to know including strategic thinking, planning, positioning, execution and analytics. Our robust client roster has included the NFL Players Association, Reebok, the NBA, Acura, Shell, Miller Lite, 3M, Jack Link’s and Pfizer. His weekly brand stories have generated over 5 million views.

Comments: have your say