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

Oct 15, 2019 | Advertising, Events, Marketing, Television | 0 comments

One of the first steps our production staff takes in creating branded content for a client is sending them a form to fill out, providing us with all kinds of information about the brand and product that’s going to be featured in one of our shows.

Around here, it’s known as the Features & Benefits Form.  And if you’ve worked with Brenton Productions before, you’ve probably filled out more than a few of these!

The producers and talent of our TV shows use this information to make sure we deliver the message that our client wants the audience to hear.

Often when our clients complete these forms, 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 MotorTrend – 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 Truck U, 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 refers 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 clients avoid!)

Using the example of a replacement fuel pump, he illustrates 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?” says McGonagle.  “For every feature of your product, ask, ‘So what?’  Your answer is usually the benefit.”

He suggests 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 says. 

He points 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 over 70 million active car enthusiasts who specify and install automotive and performance 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!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *