Victoria’s Secret & Woot – The Benefit of Selling Benefits

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Why is it that some sophisticated marketers suddenly forget the difference between a feature and a benefit as soon as they get online?

Is it that old, “geeks talking to geeks” mentality? I hope not. Online shopping is years past the “early adopters” stage.

Maybe it’s that eternal “implied benefits” argument. It says, if we list enough neat sounding features stuff – like “fully integrated, dual digital hydraulic whack sacker” – it’s gotta be good. Forget for a moment that nobody outside the cubicle of a cackling technical writer named Murray knows what the hell a fully integrated, dual digital hydraulic whack sacker is.

Remember that if we don’t make that leap of faith that “if Murray says it, it’s gotta be good”, there’s no payoff to me or you, the potential whack sacker-enhanced thingie consumer. We’re left thinking, “this is a good thing?” Thanks to the skills of Murray, it sure sounds good. But is that enough to make us buy?

Consider Victoria’s Secret. They don’t spend their efforts flouting their magic underwire cleavage creator with adjustable dual grabby over-shoulder anti-bounce stabilizer strap. They sell the sex – the ultimate benefit of all that satin and steel technology. You’ll look attractive, men will adore you. Forget for a moment that you probably don’t have the same shape as those double-jointed super models who don’t seem to own any pants or sweaters.

Now look at one of my favorite sites – I go there for the writing. Every day Woot copywriters are given the daunting challenge of selling the world some overstocked, frequently out-dated piece of technical wizardry.

With no apparent benefit save it might make a nice boat anchor, the Woot copywriters set about creating tongue-in-cheek benefits when there are none. They often fabricate elaborate stories, sometimes using a genre literature style (one of my favorites was a scene painted straight out of Jane Austin) suggesting some really cool benefit such as the robot vacuum will actually herd household pets.

Even though you don’t buy the fictional benefit, many consider the benefit of the low cost of being cool implied in the copy. And always, Woot follows by listing the features.

This convoluted journey brings me to a suggestion. If you’re writing landing page copy where space and visitor attention spans are infamously limited, stick to the benefits.

What’s in it for your potential consumer? How will the features of this product or service make them happier, richer, thinner, less harried or more beautiful?

Sell the benefits, gang. The features can speak for themselves.

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