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The #1 Marketing Mistake Companies Make (and How to Avoid It)

May 17, 2022

This blog post was originally published October 15, 2019.  We thought it warranted an update – not only because we now have newer data to share, but because it highlights how we collaborate with automotive aftermarket brands on effectively communicating the value of their product to our highly-targeted audience of automotive enthusiasts, DIYers, and professionals.

One of the first steps our production staff takes in collaborating with a brand partner is collecting information about the product that’s going to be featured in one of our shows. Our goal is to translate this information into effective brand storytelling that informs the show’s audience.

Often when our clients provide this information in the form of a list of “features and benefits”, they put emphasis on the features of the product – probably because the engineers and manufacturers have focused very hard on perfecting the product’s design; and they are, understandably, proud of their work.  They want to highlight the excellent qualities of the product.

But if all we focus on is the product’s outstanding features, we’re not delivering the most helpful and effective message to the audience.  We’re not talking about the benefits of the product to the consumer.  And that means we’re not doing our job.

Pro Tip:  Think Like Your Audience

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill.  They want a quarter-inch hole!”

~ Theodore Levitt

When it comes to our automotive how-to programming, we know the audience is highly-targeted because Truck U, Two Guys Garage, All Girls Garage, Car Fix, and FourWheeler all air on MotorTrendTV – the top automotive network with a narrowly-focused lens of “all-cars, all-the-time” programming.

Because we know this is an automotive enthusiast audience, we know they spend time (whether as a job or as a hobby) solving problems in the garage.

  • They want to know how to install parts without the job taking more time than they can afford.
  • They need to repair and replace parts to get vehicles running properly again; and sometimes they need to do this on a limited budget or with limited tools.
  • They’re always asking themselves, “Isn’t there a smarter, easier, faster, or more cost-effective way to get this job done?”

Our Automotive Audience at a Glance

Because of this, our producers and directors often approach the storylines in our shows with what they call a “problem-solution” format.  Ideally, the products being promoted in the show are helping the hosts to solve a problem that our audience members may also face in their own garages.

“We’re actually making that product an integral part to that storyline,” says Matt Allegretti, who produces and directs Car Fix, All Girls Garage, and FourWheeler.  “And [we’re] really making them the hero of the show.”

What Makes Your Product a Hero?

It can be all too easy to lose sight of the vital need to communicate what a product does and how it’s going to help the consumer.  Instead, the tendency is to focus on features like what materials it’s made of and what components it has.

That’s not to say these features aren’t important; but if you’re not explaining how those qualities benefit the consumer, you’re not telling a compelling story.  Especially because competing products probably come with similar components and use similar materials.

Become a Better Storyteller By Asking, “So What?”

Brenton Productions founder Frank McGonagle referred to the “all features, no benefits” approach as the #1 marketing mistake companies make in their advertising.  (So naturally, it’s something we try very hard to help our brand partners avoid!)

Using the example of a replacement fuel pump, he illustrated how radically you can shift your message into a more compelling story by showing how your product solves problems, rather than by pointing out its key features.

Here’s his example of a strictly “features”-focused explanation of the “ACME” Replacement Fuel Pump:

“How do you figure out what the customer benefits are?” said McGonagle.  “For every feature of your product, ask, ‘So what?’  Your answer is usually the benefit.”

He suggested listing the benefits first, then backing up those benefits with the relevant product features.

Here’s his example of a better story – the “benefits”-focused explanation of the ACME Fuel Pump:

And, by the way, this isn’t just advice for the companies we work with; it’s also something we’re constantly reminding ourselves to put into practice.

“Occasionally at Brenton Productions, we’ve been guilty of focusing our marketing messages on the features of our television advertising, instead of talking about its benefits to our advertiser clients,” McGonagle said.

He pointed out that we’ve sometimes used language that simply tells how many viewers our TV shows reach, when a more effective, benefit-oriented approach would be, “Your product will be demonstrated by an industry expert on Two Guys Garage, reaching 74 million active automotive enthusiasts who buy and install performance and maintenance parts.”

What can we say – we’re all learning!  And as long as we keep learning along with our clients how to be better storytellers, we can keep delivering better results for the companies who trust us with spreading their message.

Is your current approach all features and no benefits?  Try using our FREE Product Integration Strategy Guide to help re-focus your message!

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