Understanding and Developing Product Benefits

Benefits are the personal value consumers attach to the product attributes-that is, what consumers think the product can do for them. Benefits can be further distinguished into three-categories according to the underlying motivations to which they relate (Park, Jaworski, and Maclnnis 1986): (1) functional benefits, (2) experiential benefits, and (3) symbolic benefits. Functional benefits are the more intrinsic advantages of product consumption and usually correspond to the product-related attributes. These benefits often are linked to fairly basic motivations, such as physiological and safety needs (Maslow 1970), and involve a desire for problem removal or avoidance (Fennell 1978; Rossiter and Percy 1987). Experiential benefits relate to what it feels like to use the product and also usually correspond to the product-related attributes. These benefits satisfy experiential needs such as sensory pleasure, variety, and cognitive stimulation. Symbolic benefits are the more extrinsic advantages of product consumption. They usually correspond to non-product-related attributes and relate to underlying needs for social approval or personal expression and outer-directed self-esteem. Hence, consumers may value the prestige, exclusivity, or fashionability of a brand because of how it relates to their self-concept (Solomon 1983).

Symbolic benefits should be especially relevant for socially visible, “badge” products.

Brand attitudes are defined as consumers’ overall evaluations of a brand (Wilkie 1986). Brand attitudes are important because they often form the basis for consumer behaviour (e.g., brand choice). Though different models of brand attitudes have been proposed, one widely accepted approach is based on a multi-attribute formulation in which brand attitudes are a function of the associated attributes and benefits that are salient for the brand. Fishbein and Ajzen (1975; Ajzen and Fishbein 1980) proposed what has been probably the most influential multi-attribute model to marketing (Bettman 1986). This expectancy-value model views attitudes as a multiplicative function of:

(1)        the salient beliefs a consumer has about the product (i.e., the extent to which consumers think the brand has certain attributes or benefits) and

(2) the evaluative judgement of those beliefs (i.e., how good or bad it is that the brand has those attributes or benefits).

Brand attitudes can be related to beliefs about product-related attributes and the functional and experiential benefits, consistent with work on perceived quality (Zeithaml 1988). Brand attitudes can also be related to beliefs about non-product-related attributes and symbolic benefits (Rossiter and Percy 1987), consistent with the functional theory of attitudes (Katz 1960; Lutz 1991), which maintains that attitudes can serve a “value-expressive” function by allowing individuals to express their self-concepts. Because it is difficult to specify correctly all of the relevant attributes and benefits, researchers building multi-attribute models of consumer preference have included a general component of attitude toward the brand that is not captured by the attribute or benefit values of the brand (Park 1991; Srinivasan 1979). Moreover, as noted previously, research also has shown that attitudes can be formed by less thoughtful decision making (Chaiken 1986; Petty and Cacioppo 1986)-for example, on the basis of simple heuristics and decision rules. If consumers lack either the motivation or ability to evaluate the product or service, they may use signals or “extrinsic cues” (Olson and Jacoby 1972) to infer product quality on the basis of what they do know about the brand (e.g., product appearance such as colour or scent).

Thus, the different types of brand associations making up the brand image include product-related or non-product-related attributes; functional, experiential, or symbolic benefits; and overall brand attitudes. These associations can vary according to their favourability, strength, and uniqueness.

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