Plenty of creative briefs have a features and benefits section where we fall in love with product features that our consumer could not give a gold-plated cow crap about. We think they’re benefits. Air is a feature, being alive because of said air is a benefit. In the marketing world that you and I inhabit, a benefit is only meaningful when it’s new, or lets you use an existing product in a genuinely different way. And you can demonstrate what’s in it for your audience. Better yet, you can dramatize it.  

When VW introduced its remote start feature in 2011 they demonstrated it. It was, at the time, brand new. The work was original, dramatic, surprising, and just so freakin cute.   

Could they do it now? No! Nowadays remote start is just another shrug-worthy feature. Sure, in the strictest terms, it’s handy and therefore still a benefit. It just doesn’t mean much.

Let’s just call the features and benefits section of the brief for what it is, mostly filler. The treasure is the meaningful benefit.

A meaningful benefit is that thing that gets the consumer saying something like “Hey I could use one of those” or, “I’ll be happier, fitter, more productive, (thanks Radiohead) if I have the thing that’s doing that thing in that ad.” Sometimes it’s the result of technology. Sometimes it’s a chemistry tweak (feature) that makes that hair dye (product) help you look extra smashing (benefit). Sometimes, in 2011, it’s the whiz-bang-ness of a remote starter on the new VW.  

It’s nice to know that demographics can make the meaningful benefit a moving target. I’m pretty sure Mercedes had a remote start feature a few years earlier. VW just said, “Hey middle class family person of average means, now we have this benefit for you!” 

What if you don’t have anything new to say and your features are old hat? Sometimes a collection of features adds up to a benefit. A waterproof shoe, combined with a lightweight design, combined with a high-comfort insole is three not-new features that add up to the meaningful benefit of all-weather good times. But beware of that advertising disease that infects us with laundry lists of not very exciting features. “Blah blah blah Bluetooth!” “Yay! It’s cordless! Whoopee!”  

If you don’t have a meaningful benefit, you need to think about a different kind. An emotional one. A worried single Mom waiting by the window, cue a tearjerker soundtrack as teenage daughter arrives safely home at some ungodly hour via a Lyft. (Ok I made that one up). Or, this old megahit, a man and a bear fighting over a salmon. Because, c’mon John West, you can’t get us to believe that fresh-ish salmon is a new benefit. But hey, being the playful brand that says so, delivers the emotional benefit.  

Look no matter what you market, there’s something in it for your audience. Just find what it is that matters. And make it meaningful.