Emotion trumps technical features

I think it is a trap to believe that successful brands always require differentiated product features. An over-engineered product created to have a Unique Selling Point (USP) can end up having a Useless Selling Point. That is my phrase for a product-led idea vainly looking for customers, but irrelevant to their needs.

Core category motivators are by definition the most powerful drivers for people to buy, fulfilling their strongest needs. They are usually emotional not rational. Competing products can have similar technical features, but the one with the strongest and most relevant emotional attributes will be the category leader (by share of market value). Interconnected attributes such as 'trustworthy', 'friendly', 'stylish', 'peer group approval', 'good after sales service', 'honorable and fair corporate behaviour' are examples of emotional motivators. Ironically such attributes often have a halo affect, implying product features, that are technically no different from competitors, are also better.

Think of Apple, currently rated the most valuable brand in the world. It is sometimes criticized for not being the first to market with new features or products and of copying those that are. In turn others have been accused of copying Apple's design and ideas. But it does not matter. The total brand experience and resulting emotional difference is what counts.

Disclosure: due to these thoughts I have for several years been an investor in Apple stock, but if I detect that the overall brand experience is losing this emotional differences it will be time to sell.