You’ve heard it a million times if you’ve spent any time studying copywriting, marketing or sales—stress benefits, not features. People must be expressly told what reward they can expect when buying from or even paying attention to you.
This all boils down to basic psychology and an understanding of what truly motivates the person you’re trying to reach. But what’s really going on inside our brains when we’re presented with the right beneficial promise at the right time?
Recent neurological research reveals some fascinating things about how our brains react to anticipated rewards. It seems that a message that focuses on rewards can trigger the same brain activity that results from actually enjoying the reward itself.
Here’s an excerpt from Why Choose This Book? by Read Montague, professor of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine and a fellow at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study:
…we made some headway at understanding broadly the underpinnings of why certain messages might gain behavioral power. They come to act like rewards, and the rest of the brain adapts itself to predict and acquire them. Events that foreshadow these potent messages also accrue value because our brains are designed to transfer value to events that predict reward. Just like, “A friend of my friend is also my friend,” the brain has its own version, “A predictor of a predictor is also a predictor,” where the predictors predict future reward. This is exactly why even complex verbal descriptions like the “…salad of perfectly grilled woodsy-flavored calamari…” can set off reward seeking circuits. It’s a proxy for the reward to come.
So, when you focus on beneficial messages in your copy, you’re creating an anticipatory response that is no different from experiencing the reward itself. A dry recitation of features is not going to pull this neurological trigger, and that’s why copy that focuses on features alone fails.
You’ve got to tell people the story they (and their brains) want to hear.
The hardest thing for many people is mistaking features for the benefits that the features provide. A feature is a descriptive fact about your offering. The benefit of that feature is what someone gains or avoids losing as a result of that feature.