Features vs. Benefits: Here’s the Difference & Why It Matters

Zany Marketing


Author: Zany Marketing

13 . 07 . 2021

Think about your last few marketing campaigns. Look over some of the emails you sent to prospective customers, or the social media updates you made promoting your brand-new product or service. Read over some of the blog posts you published.

How much of this promotional content focused on what your product does?

When it comes to marketing, there are two primary approaches you can take. The first focuses on what your product or service is or does – including all the shiny bells and whistles you’ve worked so hard to develop. The other focuses on how your product or service will improve users’ lives.

Which of these approaches do you think is more effective?

In today’s post, we’ll be taking a look at features versus benefits. Although closely linked, these two concepts are completely different animals, and if you don’t consider user intent from the outset, even the most innovative, revolutionary products will fail to hit the mark.

We’ll be looking at real-world examples to highlight the often-subtle yet crucial differences between features and benefits, as well as several important considerations you should bear in mind before launching your next campaign. For the sake of ease, we’ll be focusing primarily on product-based marketing, rather than marketing a service-based business, although many of the concepts covered will apply equally to both.

So what’s the difference between features and benefits? To get started, let’s take a look at the definitions of what features and benefits actually are.

Features vs. Benefits: What’s the Difference?

What is a Feature?

Simply, a feature is something that your product has or is. For SaaS companies, this is typically functionality offered by a software program that enables users to do something. Other examples of product features might include razors with five-blade heads, power drills with interchangeable bits, fridges that can make crushed ice etc.

Features often directly address common problems experienced by users in a company’s target market.

So what about benefits?

What is a Benefit?

Benefits are the outcomes or results that users will (hopefully) experience by using your product or service – the very reason why a prospective customer becomes an actual customer.

Although it might seem counterintuitive, consumers rarely want to buy things for the sake of buying them – they want to solve their problems.

For example, a particular feature for an umbrella might be its unbreakable spokes or wind-resistant construction – the benefit of which is staying dry even in strong winds that might break lesser umbrellas.

Admittedly, the waters can get a little muddy when it comes to aspirational or lifestyle-based products or services, as the “problems” that drive motivation to purchase such products are often less tangible (think “being perceived more favourably” by purchasing clothing or accessories by a certain designer, for example), but generally this concept is valid.

Essentially, benefits can be thought of as the primary reason a customer would choose to buy whatever you’re selling.

Why Are Features and Benefits Often Confused?

As with so much of marketing, the main reason why so many businesses confuse features and benefits comes back to intent.

Marketers often spend a great deal of time examining common problems experienced by their target markets. As such, it’s easy for marketers to forget that, to the layperson, the benefits of using their product may not be immediately obvious.

Put another way, just because you know why your product will make your ideal customer’s life better doesn’t mean they do.

Another common misstep marketers make is equating the time and effort that went into developing a new feature with its importance to consumers. As harsh as it may sound, most people don’t care about you, your company, or how many late nights your engineering team pulled to ship a product – all they care about is themselves.

This is why entry-level salespeople are often told to remember the “five magic words” when cold-calling prospects: “What’s in it for me?” This question is never far from a customer’s mind, and it should inform almost every single aspect of your marketing strategies.

Using a Feature-Benefit Matrix

If you’re a marketer, the chances are pretty decent that you’ve come across the term “feature-benefit matrix.” Despite sounding suspiciously like one of those godawful buzzwords that so many marketers are seemingly obsessed with, feature-benefit matrices are actually really useful documents.

Feature-benefit matrices help marketers ensure their messaging is consistent, relevant, and accessible to end-users. These documents are often formatted as grids, with one column for features, several more for benefits, and additional columns for specific messaging data points or calls-to-action.

This can all sound horribly confusing and abstract if you’ve never seen one, so let’s take a look:


Benefit 1

Benefit 2

Benefit 3

CTA List






As you can see, there is space in the left-hand column for the various features of your product, in this example listed 1-5. Next, we see three columns (“Benefit A”, “Benefit B” and “Benefit C”), where you can then add three benefits of each feature. Finally, in the right-hand column, there’s room for your various calls-to-action.

Using this format of feature-benefit matrix can help you quickly and easily identify each of the unique benefits offered by your product’s features. This, in turn, can make overall message mapping a lot easier, and ensures that not only marketing but other teams such as product are on the same page in terms of what is being communicated to end-users.

There are plenty of other feature-benefit matrix formats, but the example above is a great place to start if you’ve never used one before.

Examples of Feature-Driven Marketing

So, with all that tiresome theory out of the way, let’s take a look at some examples of marketing messaging from both a feature and benefit perspective. First up, feature-driven marketing.

Automotive Marketing

Ads for new cars are about as aspirational as it gets. With big-ticket items like new cars, it’s little wonder – after all, the benefits of owning a vehicle, such as reliable transportation, aren’t terribly sexy or persuasive, regardless of how important they are. This is why so many car ads and marketing campaigns are inherently feature-driven (pun most definitely intended).

This strategy can work well, if your product’s features are genuinely innovative or exciting. This also works if the benefits of these features are obvious, as they often are in commercials for new cars.

Consumer Electronics Marketing

When it comes to “lifestyle” marketing, few industries do it better than the consumer electronics vertical. Mobile devices live and die by their features, and the enormous popularity of “unboxing” videos on YouTube (a surprisingly large online subculture that began with toys before moving on to consumer electronics) tells us that feature-driven marketing can work wonders – if done well.

Few companies in the world understand this concept better than Apple, which has taken the art and science of feature-driven marketing to a whole new level during the past 10 years.

​Features vs benefits iPhone features

They may be slimmer, lighter, and generally “sexier” (if you’re comfortable applying this kind of label to a phone), but today’s iPhone is largely identical to its much older predecessors. After all, a smartphone is a smartphone – there’s only so much they can do, and genuine differences between iterations are few. However, this is where the genius of Apple’s primarily feature-driven approach to marketing comes into play.

Benefit-Driven Marketing

So, now that we’ve seen how product features can take center-stage in a marketing campaign, let’s look at some examples of benefit-driven marketing.

Software-as-a-Service Marketing

The Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, industry has become enormous in recent years. As software companies have migrated away from one-time license purchasing models toward subscription-based agreements, many developers have also shifted toward benefit-driven marketing messaging.

Slack is an excellent example of this principle in action. The remarkably popular communications platform may offer a range of handy tools and features that streamline team-based communication, but the real selling point is the time-savings it offers.

Much of Slack’s messaging focuses on how the product can help increase productivity and transparency, a clearly defined benefit-driven approach. Yes, its features page outlines all the cool things Slack can do, but if you’re considering adopting a new communications platform, information like that in the graphs above are what you’re really looking for.

Financial Services Marketing

When it comes to benefits-driven marketing, few industries are more keenly aware of its importance than the financial services sector. Nobody opens an account with a bank because of its branding – they do so because of the benefits they will receive, whether it be cash-back rewards programs or lower APRs on their credit card balances.

Mobile payments company Square (a subsidiary of American Express, an important point we’ll come back to momentarily) exemplifies this principle excellently. Essentially, Square allows small businesses to accept credit card payments – it’s that simple. Of course, this service is positioned in such a way that focuses almost entirely on user-focused benefits, as we see throughout Square’s site:

This is another great example of combining product feature information with benefits-driven messaging. The copy featured throughout Square’s site uses a lot of strong, active verbs, combined with punchy, urgent messaging that emphasizes the product’s ease of use and the benefits it offers.

A Brief Note on Trust Signals as Benefits

Similarly to the implied benefits of the features highlighted in the automotive ads above, trust signals can also be extraordinarily effective when positioned as implied benefits.

This principle is often utilized to great effect in the travel and hospitality industries. Name recognition is extremely important when purchasing big-ticket items such as a vacation package, and although brand-name association isn’t a specific customer benefit in itself, it does imply the tangential benefit of the experience and resources that large, well-known brands like airlines and credit card companies can offer that smaller companies often cannot.

Features vs. Benefits in Ad Copy

By now, it should be clear that focusing on the benefits of your products or services can be significantly more effective than highlighting its features. But how does this translate when it comes to ad copy, the vital first step in securing new business for many advertisers?

If you’re not sure whether a feature- or benefits-driven approach is right for your campaigns, conduct statistically significant A/B tests and let your users tell you what they want – then act accordingly.

Marketing Campaigns (with Benefits)

As we’ve seen, feature-based marketing can – and does – work well for certain businesses and product lines. However, for many small businesses, identifying and highlighting how their products and services can improve the lives of their customers is often a much more powerful strategy, from the very first ad of a campaign to the copy used on a website.

Regardless, if you remember the Five Magic Words – “What’s in it for me?” – it’s hard to go wrong with your messaging and positioning. As always, get at me in the comments with ideas or examples of campaigns that get this important distinction right.

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