People Don't Just Buy Products; They Buy Better Versions of Themselves

Turn features into benefits like Steve Jobs did with the iPod. Explore real-world examples from Evernote, Twitter, LinkedIn, and GitHub for a winning marketing strategy.

There is a famous story about Steve Jobs when he invented the iPod, and everyone in the news and the rest of the tech industry scratched their head a little. MP3 players had been around for quite a while; what was so different about the iPod?

Of course, people argued that many things were different, but one of the critical aspects was how Jobs marketed and presented it:

"1,000 songs in your pocket"


When everyone else was saying, "1GB storage on your MP3 player", telling people about the product, Apple made you a better person with 1000 songs in your pocket.

Our friends over at User Onboarding wrote an incredible post and graphic showcasing how this framework looks on a higher level:


In particular, the image itself proved to be popular — understandably. It's a great way to describe clever marketing focusing on benefits rather than features.

People have discussed using benefits instead of features in marketing, but I've always struggled to understand the difference. For this post, I explored this in more detail and dug up some examples of companies doing this well.

Features vs. benefits — how to grasp the difference

Here's how our friends at User Onboarding explained features vs. benefits:

People don't buy products; they buy better versions of themselves.

When you're trying to win customers, are you listing the attributes of the flower or describing how awesome it is to throw fireballs?


It also included this Tweet from Jason Fried on the topic:


When I read about this more, I found some great blog posts that broke it down even further. One from the idea crossing blog describes features as "what your product or service has or does" and benefits as "what the features mean and why they are important." Often, products contain unused features, which can be a significant source of waste.

So, it seems like features are the "what" of your product or service, while benefits are the "why" behind it.

I also found an elegant, old marketing quote that's often attributed to Theodore Levitt (he attributes it to Leo McGinneva in this paper) on why people buy quarter-inch drill bits:

They don't want quarter-inch bits. They want quarter-inch holes.


So, the customer wants to make a quarter-inch hole for some reason. They buy a quarter-inch bit for their drill to achieve this. Marketing the drill bit based on its features (it fits into your drill) wouldn't be as successful in this case as marketing it based on the benefits (you can create a quarter-inch hole).

So, after all of this reading, I finally distilled the difference into a sentence that I think makes it easy to distinguish between features and benefits:

Some great examples of companies making you a better version of yourself

To better understand how this works in practice, I thought it would be helpful to look at some well-known companies that use benefits in their marketing strategies. Here are a few that I found:


Remember Everything


Evernote can't remember everything for you. It can't remember anything — it's software. What it does is offer features to let you save and organize things.

Remembering everything is what you can do with Evernote — the benefit!



Connect with your friends, get in-the-moment updates, and watch events unfold from every angle.


Twitter has used a few different benefits in their tagline on the homepage, but they're still focused on benefits. Each of these three things is something you can do with Twitter. Not a feature of the product.

Of course, I hope you'll still find Buffer helpful for saving time on Twitter with scheduling your Tweets and seeing analytics.


Nest Thermostat

Programs itself. Then, it pays for itself.


I love this one because it's so clever. In just six words, the Nest Thermostat tagline tells you the biggest benefit (you'll save energy and money) and something about what makes the product unique (it's automated).



Be great at what you do.


LinkedIn has gone even further by referencing the customer in their tagline. Saying "Be great at what you do" makes it clear that the idea is that you'll be great at what you do if you use LinkedIn.

It's very customer-focused, rather than pushing features of the product or company mottos front-and-centre.



A better way to work together


It's another super simple but straightforward tagline. GitHub has a really obvious benefit to sell to customers, and features don't play a part in the tagline.

I'm sure lots more companies are doing this well. Do you have a great example? Share it in your responses.

Oh, and if you liked this post, you might also like Five Ways to Get Through Writer's Block or Content Marketing Fatigue and 6 Powerful Communication Tips From Some of the World's Best Interviewers, which are right in the same direction of coming up with a better way to communicate with your customers.

What are some products that have amazed you in the past? I'd love your insights on what makes for a great experience with a product or service, according to you.

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