Premium POV

Emotional vs. rational benefits: getting the mix just right

When it comes to marketing premium brands, there’s usually no shortage of RTBs (Reasons To Believe) to choose from. Although brands in commodity categories are sometimes challenged to differentiate themselves, the premium brand(s) in any “vertical” should carefully choose which RTBs make it to the front lines of consumer messaging. Whether or not emotional or rational benefits lead the way can make or break a campaign’s results.

Take cars, for example. We all know that dozens of options exists that can deliver all the rational benefits: engine size, price range, fuel efficiency, horsepower, and amenities like navigation or premium sound. While I may have many rational reasons for buying a car, the emotional benefits play a huge role in helping me choose one model over another: the look, the way it handles, how safe I feel, etc. Which benefits, though, should be touted in marketing to convince the target audience to buy? Rational benefits might actually have a stronger play in helping sell a premium or luxury car, after realizing that the emotional benefits are obvious. Here’s where consumer context too often gets left out of the mix.

The question marketers ought to ask is this: How does the consumer want to feel about purchasing this product? Our research suggests that certain verticals make big mistakes by telling consumers how they should feel about their brand. A low-interest category like residential electricity, for example, might misfire by trying to differentiate its brand based on emotional benefits, because consumers don’t want to feel loyal to a utility company.

Understanding the way your target wants to feel about your brand will help in deciphering which RTBs make their way into your marketing message. Another low-interest category like insurance, however, must lead with emotional benefits if it’s not differentiating on price; the consumers who will pay more for insurance are doing so because of the way they want to feel about their choice: like they’re “in good hands.” While the rational benefits are relevant for insurance, they’re secondary for premium brands of insurance, but primary for low-cost competitors, simply because the consumer context drives different RTBs within this particular category. Marketers of premium brands need to understand that, in order to convince consumers that you’re worth more, having a real understanding of want your target wants to be told is critical to influence purchase.

I know this: My wife doesn’t like it if I tell her, “Don’t be upset,” or “You should be happy about this.” My experience is that consumers don’t like it, either. And I think I’m premium, by the way.


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