Monday, April 12, 2010


Every three years, I lease a new car. It’s fun evaluating and choosing a car, even though I know I must inevitably face the salesman and negotiate without knowing what is the best deal. When the deal is done, the salesman will tell me that he is only making five dollars on this deal and that his manager approved it so they could hit this month’s quota. That helps me feel a little better, makes me think like I bought the car at the right price, but in the back of my mind I clearly know that he made out like a bandit.

I went online last week to look at all of the options available to the car, and was not surprised to see only one exception to the rule, they’re all pitching performance features! These pitches are, of course, the sales messages (selling propositions) that have been carefully crafted to convince you and I to buy their car and no other. Over time, I have identified 16 elements that make up a selling proposition and consider each a possible opportunity to characterize any product or service as “remarkable.” I define a remarkable selling proposition as one that compels the target consumer to buy.

Among those 16 elements are attributes that are simply characteristics of the product. This is the area in which the automotive industry competes. They are each telling us that their car has more “stuff” and will do more “stuff” than all the others. My son recently demonstrated his new Prius to me and I was truly impressed. That car could almost drive itself. It is, of course, not the only car like it as there is competitive, technological war going on these days between companies.

As a marketing guy, I observed that this war is all about performance. Performance is 100% about the car. What about me…the consumer? I drive a Corvette and have always driven a sports car of one kind or another. Zero to 60 in 5.3 seconds. Wow! Did I purchase all those cars for the Zero to 60? No. Not one of them was purchased so I could go Zero to 60. They were all purchased because of how I felt about driving them. There is something to be learned here.

Also, among those 16 Selling Proposition elements, is what we refer to as a benefit. The benefit is what the target consumer gets out of using the product or service. It is not at all about the car, it is all about the target consumer. My experience is that a benefit is far more effective when characterizing your product or service in your selling proposition. Attributes are important as well, but they are what we refer to as “drivers” for the benefit. Think about it. If you go to a cocktail party and all night long everyone you meet talks about themselves. Not very fun, right? However, if all the people you meet want only to talk about you, it’s a very different experience. Most marketers are not aware of this fundamental marketing truth.

You may remember I indicated there was one exception to all the performance messages. BMW is the only car company I have ever seen to feature a benefit in their advertising and promotion. They communicate that they not only make great cars, “We make JOY.” Joy speaks directly to me. Their performance features are an access to having a joyful life. Well done, BMW. The learning here is for you to lead your selling proposition with a benefit, then back it up with attribute drivers that support it. Good luck.


Keith Chambers

Keynote Marketing Speaker
Creative Marketing Consultant
(310) 473-0010

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