[Book Review] A Primer on Using Benefits to Guide Marketing Decisions

Source:  BenBella Books

Successful marketing is the result of many distinct, but interdependent, decisions and actions. Marketers must understand the structure of markets and recognize that most are composed of multiple segments that differ in important ways.

To be successful, marketers must also make the right decisions about where (in what market segments) they will compete and how they will position their company and their offerings (their “brand”) to win in those segments.

If marketing were a house, market segmentation, target market selection, and brand positioning would be the foundation and the “load-bearing” walls. And, just as the foundation and load-bearing walls are essential components of a well-built house, marketing segmentation, target market selection, and brand positioning are essential for successful marketing.

A new book by Allen Weiss and Deborah J. MacInnis addresses these topics:  The Brand Benefits Playbook:  Why Customers Aren’t Buying What You’re Selling – And What to Do About It (BenBella Books, 2024).

Allen Weiss is the founder and CEO of MarketingProfs, LLC and an Emeritus Professor at the University of Southern California. He has consulted with numerous high-profile enterprises including Intel, Texas Instruments, and AIG.

Deborah MacInnis is the Charles L. and Ramona I. Hilliard Professor of Business Administration and an Emerita Professor of Marketing at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. She has consulted with many well-known enterprises including Proctor & Gamble and Hallmark.

What’s In the Book

The central message of The Brand Benefits Playbook is that marketers should make benefits the paramount concept when developing marketing strategy and planning marketing activities.

Weiss and MacInnis state their view in unambiguous terms when they write:  “. . . a focus on the benefits that customers want in the brands they buy can provide an integrated lens on marketing decision-making – from market segmentation, to target market selection, to brand positioning, and more.”

The book contains nine “plays” (chapters), and the authors use the first two chapters to introduce the concept of benefits and explain why focusing on benefits is critical for marketers.

In the first chapter, Weiss and MacInnis define benefits as, “. . . the desirable outcomes that customers expect to receive from your brand.” Then, they discuss the three types of benefits customers might want from brands – functional, experiential, and symbolic – and they argue marketers should consider all three types when deciding how to market their brand.

The authors also use the first chapter to argue that focusing on brands can help marketers:

Avoid “marketing myopia”Identify potential competitorsIdentify paths to growthDevelop new product ideasBetter understand shocks and trends

In the second chapter, Weiss and MacInnis discuss why organizations should focus on brands. They note that customers have perceptions about the benefits a brand offers and make choices based on those perceptions. They also observe that organizations earn revenue when customers purchase brands and that marketing activities are often organized around brands.
Weiss and MacInnis conclude the second chapter by describing perceptual maps and explaining why they are valuable and how they are used.
In the remaining chapters, the authors discuss several ways brand benefits can be used in marketing. For example:
Play #3 explains why marketers should segment their market based on brand benefits.
Play #4 discusses why marketers should use brand benefits when choosing target markets and positioning their brand in those markets.
Play #5 and Play #6 explain how to determine whether a proposed brand positioning will be credible and defensible, and how benefits factor into making that determination.
In the final chapter (Play #9), Weiss and MacInnis discuss three ways to grow a brand, and they conclude the book with four brief appendices that expand on some of the topics covered in the main text.
My Take
The Brand Benefits Playbook is well-written and easy to read. And, the topics Weiss and MacInnis cover in the book are all vital for successful marketing.
The argument for using benefits as the basis for making fundamental marketing decisions is also compelling because a focus on benefits fosters an understanding of competitive dynamics that is meaningful and actionable.
What prospective readers should know is that The Brand Benefits Playbook addresses these important topics at a fairly basic level. If you have limited experience with market segmentation, target market selection, and brand positioning, the book will be a worthwhile read and a good starting point.
Once you’ve read The Brand Benefits Playbook, I recommend two other books for further learning.
On brand positioning – Positioning for Advantage:  Techniques and Strategies to Grow Brand Value by Kimberly A Whitler (which I reviewed here)
On market segmentation and related issues – The Organic Growth Playbook:  Activate High-Value Behaviors To Achieve Extraordinary Results – Every Time by Bernard J. Jaworski and Robert S. Lurie (which I reviewed here)

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