At the very core, the difference between a product and a brand lies in the benefits that you offer to your customers. It doesn’t get any easier than that. Well, sort of.
In its simplest form, a product is merely a collection of benefits, but because they are coming from the product then they are functional benefits. It’s all about what the product (or service) does. And in most categories, unfortunately, the functional benefits of the products available are pretty much the same. That’s just how it works.
That’s what makes them products, after all!
Related: 5 Smart Offline Marketing Strategies
Let’s take a look at a few common industries to illustrate the point.
All of the products on the store shelf pretty much offer the same functional benefits. They clean, condition, soften, smooth, volumize (if that’s a word), texturize, straighten, etc., our hair. We buy them to help us style our hair. Other than the packaging and the fragrance, perhaps, you’d be hard pressed to find a one-of-a-kind functional benefit. They all do the same job, for the most part, from a product perspective.
These small businesses pretty much offer the same functional benefits. They dry clean our valuable clothing and all do a pretty good job. Sure, you might develop a bit of a personal relationship with your dry cleaner and you may grow to trust their services, but the services themselves are relatively the same from establishment to establishment. They are even likely to use the same process and chemicals.
Not to be disrespectful, but the services that consultants offer are pretty much the same in any given industry. Sure, each consultant has a functional expertise, but within that expertise there are likely a few other consultants that offer the same benefits.
We could look at industry after industry, category after category, and we’d likely find that the functional benefits within those groups are largely the same. If one product does manage to innovate and break out of the pack with something new, it doesn’t take long for the other products to replicate it in some way, shape or form. That’s how product marketing and competition works.
But that’s OK. It’s the functional benefits that make up a product. It’s why we buy them. They fulfill a need, be it to wash and style our hair, clean our best clothes or help solve a complicated business challenge.
We need these products and we need them to perform for us. As manufacturers and marketers we spend countless hours making sure that we can fulfill on those needs and deliver on those benefits. Without the functional benefits, we wouldn’t be able to stay competitive in our industry and we wouldn’t have really anything to sell.
So regardless of what anyone says, it’s important to focus on the functional attributes of your product and to make sure that they are constantly being improved and are continually satisfying your customers.
You just can’t focus on them alone, and you can’t work on them in a vacuum because functional benefits alone will not differentiate and grow your business.