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Finding the intersection of Passion and Pain could expand your organization’s marketing potential. It has long been held that a company’s or product’s success depends on the ability to identify and position it against a customer pain point – a specific problem current and prospective customers experience. There are various ways to unearth these pain points, like conducting customer research, to help select which are most relevant and compelling for each segment we intend to pursue. Research helps us discover pain points that are financial, such as the need for reducing costs or lowering total cost of ownership. Or, these pain points have to do with productivity (desire to produce more, faster or cheaper) or process (improving operational efficiencies or customer service quality).

Larry Samuel, founder of AmeriCulture and author of Passion Points: Turning Consumer Passion into Marketing Opportunity, suggests that passion points are as important as pain points when it comes to positioning. A passion point speaks to what excites customers and includes causes they care about personally and activities and experiences they prioritize in their everyday life. We have seen a surge in positioning around social responsibility, sustainability, and other causes. CMOs like Raja Rajamannar of MasterCard frequently speak on positioning against passion points. They create consumer engagement, develop competitive advantage, and build the brand.

Should you focus on pain points or passion points? There are experts on both sides of the discussion and good arguments for one over the other. We tend to agree with Tim Ellis, CMO of the NFL, that the sweet spot is to match positioning at the intersection of pain and passion points.

How to Identify a Pain or Passion Point

If this concept resonates with you, your next step is to identify both your customers’ pain and passion points. Revealing these often takes qualitative and quantitative research. Because pain and passion points are highly subjective, we recommend beginning with methods such as in-depth interviews or focus groups.

Most companies are familiar with designing research to reveal pain points. The objective is to understand the problem, how big it is, and how important it is to resolve it. Ask questions designed to surface pain points, such as:

  • What keeps you up at night?
  • What eats up your lunch time?
  • What is the biggest obstacle hindering your success?

And follow up with questions like

  • How does this problem impact your company’s success?
  • What would be the value to your company of solving this problem?
  • What steps have you taken or would you be willing to take to resolve this, and what keeps you from taking these steps?


Apply the same approach to tease out passion points. The objective for questions is to understand what energizes and drives the company. Some potential questions might include:

  • What charities or extracurricular programs does your company financially support and why do you allocate company dollars to these?
  • If your company could be remembered for three things, what would you want them to be?
  • If you were to encourage your employees to volunteer their time, which organizations would you want them to consider?
  • What is one sentence that you would write to define your company?

The Overlap is the Foundation for Your Positioning Statement

Once you complete the research, analyze the data and look for patterns that identify synergies between the pain and passion points. Notice patterns that align and connect problems with aspirations, then answer the question of how your company or product addresses these. The intersection between the pain points, the passion points, and your solution is the sweet spot for your positioning statement.

With this information you can craft several insightful statements. Be sure to test these with customers. Customer advisory boards can provide a good vehicle for testing and refining positioning statements. Once you have your positioning formulated, you can build out a message map. Keep in mind that you want messaging that encompasses both the pain and passion points. As you build out your personas you can select which of these to amplify.

In today’s customer-centric environment, success in positioning requires focus on the overlap between the customer’s problem and their aspirations. Research that investigates both is an invaluable tool that will provide directional guidance. If your firm does not possess the knowledge or resources to conduct a proper research study, outsource the project to a company like us that specializes in primary market research.