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How to Connect Features and Values

"Buy this magazine or we'll shoot the dog," went a memorable cover for the satire magazine National Lampoon many years ago. On the cover, along with the threat, was the picture of an attractive dog with large sad eyes - and a pistol pointed at its head!

Want a powerful way to make sure your message leaves an impression on the people who receive it?

Talk about the consequences that will occur as a result of following or not following your advice. That could be a carrot (good things will happen) or a stick (bad things will happen), depending on the situation.

Consequences are the outcome of a cause and effect sequence. If you do one thing, another thing will happen. Buy the magazine and the dog will be saved. Buying the magazine is the cause, and a reprieve for the dog is the effect.

There are several types of consequences, and we can leverage our communication strength by knowing and understanding the different types.

Functional consequences refers to physical results. Use this shampoo and your hair will look beautiful. Buy this car and you'll get more miles per gallon.

Psychological consequences refer to intangible results, but still have a powerful effect. Consider life insurance: if you buy it you will never get a benefit from it, but your family will, and that gives you peace of mind.

Social consequences are the third type, and refer to your standing with your peers or important others. Buy this wine and your friends will think you're a person of discerning taste and style.

Why are consequences important? In addition to the obvious, consequences help us understand the connection between the features of a product or service and the values that are (or are not) satisfied by using or consuming it.

As we've all been told many times, features aren't important in themselves, rather they're important for the benefits they confer. Yet, benefits tend to dead-end, that is, there's a tendency to stop analyzing once we've identified them.

Thinking of consequences, rather than benefits, helps extend our analyses to another level, to values. Admittedly, this may be as much about semantics as substance, but nevertheless it matters.

From another perspective, consequences help us move from the concrete to the abstract. We can touch or experience features directly; that takes no imagination. Values, on the other hand, are all in the mind; they can't be touched or experienced in the same way.

For example, wash your hair with this shampoo, which contains ingredient X-15 (a feature) and you'll feel more confident (a consequence) when you go out for an evening, and a feeling of confidence helps you enjoy social occasions (a value satisfier, and ultimate result).

You've no doubt seen this strategy used in shampoo commercials and display ads. Which makes sense, because most of us don't value nice hair for its own sake; we value it for social reasons.

In summary, understanding the connection between features and values, through consequencesComputer Technology Articles, helps make our communication more effective.

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Robert F. Abbott writes and publishes Abbott's Communication Letter. Learn how you can use communication to help achieve your goals, by reading articles or subscribing to this ad-supported newsletter. An excellent resource for leaders and managers, at:

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