To Stand Out From the Competition, You Need to Offer Distinct Emotional Benefits

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There is no product or service that doesn't offer customers at least one functional benefit. You wouldn’t be in business otherwise. Functional benefits are what make a product, well, a product.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that functional benefits make up a brand, because they don’t. This is where the emotional benefits step in, and it’s those emotional benefits that in fact make a brand, well, a brand.

That’s because functional benefits don’t differentiate -- most products or services in any given category or industry typically offer the same functional benefits. What separates the products or services from each other, however, is the branding. Brands are very distinct from each other, and that’s because of the distinctive emotional benefit that they each uniquely create.

Related: People Don't Want Something Truly New, They Want the Familiar Done Differently.

Let’s revisit the examples I used in the last column to show how the emotional benefits of brands can differentiate.

Hair care

You’d be hard pressed to find a category with more products and brands in it, and they all pretty much perform the same function. “Healthier, stronger, shinier” hair for all!

But dig into the brands, and you’ll see incredible differentiation based on the emotional benefits that each brand chooses to offer. From “You’re Worth It” to  “Live Beautiful, Feel Beautiful” to “#IWantThatHair,” people choose hair care brands based on how they make them feel, not the physical attributes.

Neighborhood dry cleaners

Let’s be honest, these establishments all do the same thing, most likely using the same materials, with the same wire hangers and plastic wrapping. There’s not a lot of differentiation in the service. But there is a huge difference between establishments in the friendliness and attitude towards customers.

Related: 4 Tips to Successful Business Storytelling

When I recently moved into my new home, I tried three businesses in my neighborhood until I found one that treated me like a member of the community -- like a real person and not just an empty shirt. While I now walk out of my way to get to the one I picked, I feel better about leaving my valuable clothing for them to clean. They remember me when I walk in, and they didn’t even charge me when I forgot my wallet the other day.

Emotional benefits!


In the business-to-business world, so many decisions are made based on emotional dimensions. If you are going to trust your career and reputation to the work of a consultant, you’ll make sure that they’re competent, but you are also going to make sure that they are on your side, dependable and make you look good. These are all emotional benefits that turn an ordinary consultant into a brand.

So as you think through how to manage your products and your brands, I hope you now realize that you have to really think hard about the emotional benefits that you provide in addition to the functional attributes. That’s how you’ll differentiate from your competition and move your business forward.

Related: 3 Great Ways to Create an Emotional Bond with Customers

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