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The Product Benefit

In this Tourism Marketing Tip, I want to share the wonders of the Product Benefit. But first; a bit of background may be in order. I speak with owners all the time who confuse a feature with a benefit. I will show you why the line between these two items can seem a little blurry.

First, let’s define a product feature. I want to pick on Kentucky Fried Chicken because I have seen these restaurants in Moscow and Rome and my home town. So you are familiar with these folks no matter where you live.

Years ago their slogan was “40 herbs & spices”. It was on every television commercial: the chicken taste better because of forty herbs and spices. Nobody could possibly match the taste!

You already know where I am going: the spices is a feature (I hate English). The benefit of all this extra seasoning is that the chicken is so good you will lick your fingers when you are done. The product benefit is that their chicken is “Finger Lickin’ Good”.

So perhaps twenty years ago, they switched their slogan from a feature to a benefit.

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Consider this: Avis (the car rental company) tries harder. Clearly, their trying harder is something that will benefit you. They really, really want your business. Why? Because of a feature: they are the second largest car rental company. So they have to try harder to earn your business. This is a great concept; they took a negative and turned it into a positive.

I need you to be clear on the difference between a feature and a benefit. So I will take a few imaginary examples from the tourism industry:

There is a hotel adjacent to a clear, blue sea.

Feature: We have crystal clear seas!
Benefit: Some of the world’s best snorkeling!

There is a gas station with clean restrooms (American for toilet or WC).

Feature: We have the cleanest restrooms!
Benefit: Benefit: Clean Restroom = Happy Wife!

Restaurant features a buffet

Feature: You walk in a get what you want!
Benefit: You could have been eating by now!

Notice something in each example: the benefit is how the feature will help you. You will have a happy wife so you will enjoy your vacation more because of our clean restroom. The benefit is how the feature will make your vacation better. The take away from the above is that we are looking for something that will help us. We do not care about your fresh fish, we care about how your fresh fish will improve our dinner. The product benefit is a selfish thing - how will this help the tourist from his point of view.

Now you have an idea about the difference between a feature and a benefit, lets dig into the very best product benefits. Let’s talk about family, love, and memories.

Warning: we will now play with fire and must be careful. Do not ever toy with emotions in an overt, open manner or you will surly pay. Marketing Death = “If you loved your children you would spend money with us”.

In my home town, there is a small theme park. It’s called Dollywood after the American Country Singer, Dolly Parton, who is from this little town. I wanted to show you this because of words like little and small. This is not Apple, this is something any small business can do.

Dollywood Website Screenshot
This park is about family and memories. Think about how crass this sales pitch is: buy a season ticket and your family will become closer, or “more together, more often”. The question becomes, will you become closer to your children if your buy a season pass to some second tier theme park? The answer: YES!!

Just to be clear: I like Dollywood and will be there several times this year. The above is not intended as an attack but I do recognize where Dollywood falls on the Disney Parks scale.

Back to the subject at hand: the best product benefits are feelings. How will you feel after you do business with us? Will you feel good about your decision?

I once was task with designing all promotional materials for a 1745 seat theater. That’s three thousand seats a day and I need to fill them!

This was for a world-class troupe of Chinese Acrobats. They had just finished the Olympics and a big-time Hollywood movie. Of course, the show producer wanted to talk about all these features. Suddenly the clear-cut examples above become grey and out of focus.

You will not be surprised to learn that I appeared at one end of a twenty meter long office (Really) with a picture of a little blonde girl grinning ear to ear at a Chinese Acrobat and Mr. Zhou is at the other end, behind his desk with, well, the checkbook… One of my much loved Thunder Drum girls is holding the daughter of the theater manager in her arms in that picture and they clearly adore each other. You cannot fake or stage that photograph and I caught it.

Yes, of course we needed to use the quotes from CBS, NBC, the NYT, and those guys. There were a pile of them. But in the end for me it was about how you would feel after seeing the show. While I did get my picture used and enough text to keep me from open rebellion; the features of the show carried the day.

Even in this extreme example, it should be all about feelings and benefits, not features. So we return to the basics: memories, family, and feelings. I admit that this is not practicable in our gas station with the clean bathrooms example, but it is useful for a hotel or attraction. Yes, childhood memories are created in a hotel.

Let’s apply these lessons to our imaginary hotel: the temptation will be to take a great photograph of the pool. However, the benefit is how much fun you’ll have enjoying the pool. If the hotel is family centered the picture may feature a child getting tossed in the pool by Dad. If adults are the target then a couple sipping wine pool side would be the better choice. A romantic sunset would be a nice touch. So its not the pool, its how you will feel using the pool.

Here is a picture of Disney World’s Water Park. It’s part of the Walt Disney World, Orlando website Home Page.
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Want to see a picture of Thunder Mountain? The ride is not important (there is no picture), these folks want you to know how you will feel on the ride.
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