Marketing Expert Nathan Lyons Explains How to Create Credible Marketing Claims with Attribute Value Mapping

We’ve all seen advertisements and marketing materials for products that don’t seem realistic. The claims are overblown, the story doesn’t make sense, and instead of being drawn to the product, you’re making a mental note not to buy what those people are selling. It’s an easy mistake to make when you’re trying to attract attention for your product, but it’s a costly one. Labs mentor Nathan Lyons, director at Vision Interviews, held a Labs session all about creating compelling and credible claims for your startup’s marketing using the Attribute Value Mapping tool. Here’s how it works.

The basics on Attribute Value Mapping

Attribute Value Mapping is a tool you can use to essentially fact-check your own marketing about your product. “It’s very similar to features and benefits,” Lyons says. “Features are what a product or service has— the facts about it. The benefits are what you get out of it from a consumer point of view. Attribute and value are other words for features and benefits, but they’re a bit broader because they let you talk about experiences and services, too. It has to do with linking benefits of a product or service to the facts about it, so that a consumer, client, investor—whoever the audience is—gets a solid story that’s credible.”

How it helps with your marketing

You want your marketing to be many things—compelling, unique, persuasive, etc. But you also need it to be credible and free of any unsubstantiated claims that’ll turn prospective customers off. That’s where Attribute Value Mapping comes in. “It’s a very systematic way to connect technical features with consumer emotional benefits,” Lyons says. “It teaches you to communicate in an authentic and believable way and to identify authenticity and credibility in others. Marketing is the only way to get people to know about what you’re doing, but the world is so cynical about corporate communications and stories from businesses. So you have to be extra careful about how you tell your story because people are listening very closely and they’ve got a strong nonsense radar.”

Credible versus non-credible ads

Consider two examples of ads that Lyons showed during his session: The first is an ad for Bic disposable razors. “A guy shaves then goes to kiss his daughter goodnight. She wakes up a little and says ‘Goodnight mommy,’” Lyons says. The second is an ad for Land Rover. “There’s a guy who wants to say something serious to his girlfriend so he jumps in his Land Rover, locks the door, and talks to her through the window. It’s very funny, but you have to think about the claims being made and whether they’re supported by the product,” Lyons says. “In both cases, the claims being made are fun, advertising-y, and emotional. But the facts are actually very boring and specific.”

In the Bic ad, they’re claiming that the shave you get from their razor is so good that a child wouldn’t be able to tell if you were a man or a woman. “You have to ask yourself, what let’s them make that claim? It’s not clear. It’s an oversell,” Lyons says. “It’s funny, but it’s not credible.”

On the other hand, the Land Rover ad works. “The claim is that you’ll feel safe inside,” Lyons says. “It’s really about safety features, because Land Rovers have more safety features than most other family vehicles. The idea of feeling safe inside is exaggerated in a strange, funny way with a man breaking up with his girlfriend from inside the car. The brand gets to share an interesting, creative message while still supporting their claim with some evidence and facts.”

How the tool works for products

Start with an example of a product, like an electric drill. Think about why you’d go to a home improvement story for a drill, then continue asking yourself ‘why’ questions, like this: “Say I want to make a hole,” Lyons says. “Why do I want to make a hole? Maybe to put up a painting. Why do I want to put up a painting? To make the house look nice. Why do I care about the house looking nice? Maybe I don’t care, but my partner does and if I put the painting up, it’ll be good for our relationship. I’ve discovered that I’m not going to the shop because I’m fascinated by the technical details of drills. I’m going because I want to be a good partner.”

Now, think about each attribute or fact about the drill— the size, weight, color, speed. “Then ask yourself what value those attributes give you,” Lyons says. “If the drill is yellow, being distinctive may be a value. Maybe there’s on audience of potential consumers who want to look cool using the drill, and there’s another audience who want it to look distinctive because they’re going to throw in the back of the garage and want to be able to easily find it.”

When it comes to doing Attribute Value Mapping on your own product, start with a stack of Post-it notes, Lyons says. “You have attributes or facts in one color, and they go on the bottom the board. Then you have the claims or values in another color and you systematically start linking attributes with values. You play around with it and start to build up a kind of tree of notes, with layers of hierarchy.” Remember that the things you’re classifying as attributes actually have to be attributes. “People are often surprised to find that things they thought were attributes are actually values,” Lyons says. “For example, ‘lightweight’ is not an attribute. It’s a claim. Something weighing three ounces is an attribute.”

“Start with a really boring fact, like the weight is X and the material it’s made out of is Y,” Lyons says. “They’re just facts, but you could start to tell really lovely stories based on them. For the drill, if it’s heavy, your story could be that holding it makes you feel strong and powerful.”

Remember that there’s likely more than one audience who could be interested in your product. “There could be someone who’ll be the one who actually uses it and then there’s the person who buys it for them,” Lyons says. “Those attributes need to be reassessed depending on who the audience is.”

Put the tool to use for your product

Attribute Value Mapping works for services, too. “Compare airlines, for example. Look at a budget airline versus a luxury airline,” Lyons says. “What you do is take apart their process. In the end, you get on an airplane. There are some technical differences between the seats and the food—those are the facts about the product. They’re measurable. But there’s also the service. Who talks to you as the passenger? What is the staff wearing? How do they respond to questions and problems? These are all facts about the service. Then you think about the value. How do those facts about the service make me feel when I get on the plane or when I have a problem? When you’ve booked business class, they call your name when you get to the gate and tell you that you can board immediately. That’s a fact. But how does that make me feel? Special, selected, good about myself.”

Whether your startup offers a product or a service, use this tool to help you create marketing claims that aren’t only eye-catching and effective, but credible enough that consumers develop trust in your brand.

Learn more about marketing for early-stage startups.

This post is based on content from a WeWork Labs programming session.

Interested in connecting directly with this mentor? Ask your Labs Manager for help.

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