Value Proposition Canvas - Redundancy between Gains/Pains and Pain Relievers/Gain Creators

Dear all,

I have been working recently with a client on their value proposition using the Value Proposition Canvas.

I found that we tended to put the same items both in Gains and Pains on the Customers side, only seen from opposite angles. Two examples:

  1. "Product exceeding budget" is an important Customer Pain, but we also put it as "Low price' into Gains.
  2. "Time to customize the product" as Pain, and "Quick customization" into Gains.

On the Value Proposition side, we found it simlarly difficult to decide wether we should put items into Pain relievers or Gain creators. To use the aforementioned examples, a feature that reduces the price could be considered both as Pain reliever or as Gain Creator, depending on where you put the corresponding item on the Customer side.

Did others have the same problem? How should one approach the VPC to avoid this redundancy?

I tried to find more information on how to use the VPC, but a part from Alex Osterwalder's explanation here, I found neither more detailed indications on how to use this canvas, nor case studies as they exist for the Business Model Canvas.

So all feedback on the VPC would be appreciated:

  • Help to resolve the described redundancy problem
  • Case studies for the VPC
  • How-to guides for using the VPC

Thanks in advance for all your contributions!

PS: I also take this opporunity to reiterate my request to make me aware of explanations of the VPC in French or German (already expressed in another thread).

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Excellent question. I don’t have an answer, but a perspective.

Strategically speaking, there are two general categories of key success factors. The first category is strategic parity, or what you need to do to be able to compete on a level playing field in your business or industry. The second is strategic strength, or how you meaningfully differentiate your value in the eyes of the customer.

I would suggest that “pain relievers” are more likely to be in the category of strategic parity as the cause of the customer’s pain is the lack of a solution and if you are unable to provide that solution, you don’t have “a place at the table.”

“Gain creators” on the other hand, seem to me to be items that represent strategic strengths, or unique value in the marketplace. (Think about blue ocean strategy).

So, using your example. If a reduction in price is necessary to be at parity with the competition, it is a “pain reliever”. It relieves the customer’s pain in doing business with you. If a reduction in price represents unique value in the marketplace (which it rarely does for long!) then it is a “gain creator” as it creates new value for the customer.


Hi guys

I am afraid my response might sound a little academic.  But when I started doing process improvement, people introduced me to the research of someone named Kano.  He did a lot of research into product development and concluded that most features are wasteful.


He then suggested that some features were really "the rules to play the game".  They are expected and represent the things that people will be really upset by (if it is missing).  He then suggested that other features were just nice, but not needed.  Finally he identified a group of features that he referred to as "delighters".  These are things that people are not expecting, but that they will be really impressed with.


Kano recommends asking people to rate possible features on both the basis of "I would be annoyed if it was missing" and "I would be really excited to see it".  There seems to be a lot of redundancy in those questions but my experience has been that you get quite different answers.


Similarly, I learned that in NLP, researchers claim that some people are "away from" people and think in terms of avoiding bad outcomes, while others are "towards people" who think in terms of a positive goal to pursue.  When you present to a large group it is often recommended that you even frame your presentation in terms of "protect from bad and move toward good".


So I am all for assessing both "pains people want removed" and "gains they are not expecting but that would drive them to make a purchase".


Thanks for the 'food for thought' post, i will be incorporating this into my approach as its very logical and can drive for a very interesting discussion.



I have often felt that puzzling, unconfortable feeling of uncertainty, in deciding whether to stick the yellow note to the Gains or to the Pains section. If it were just a matter of algebra, we could probably leave one of the two out, but I believe this is not the case and a little psychology is involved.

My way out is:

  1. Most gains are just "naturally" so, as well as most pains. Some others are quite neutral and can be seen from a double perspective, positive/negative, so I just choose one;
  2. Redundancy is a minor problem: better to get to the point twice than never;
  3. Most of gain/pain dilemmas magically disappear as soon as you genuinely reach your customer's perspective. They may signal that your customer insight is somewhat improvable.

Example. If you are a runner and are thinking of buying running shoes, your gain is 1 minute less in your mile time at effort parity, while your pain is those aching blisters on your heels. On the other side, if you produce running shoes, your gain creator is the special composite material plate you included in the footbed design. Your pain reliever is the hypoallergenic stuffing you embedded in the back. Sure, you can always think of being outrun by your buddy as a pain and of having beautiful feet to show on the beach as a gain, but this might sound a bit weird or nerdy.

Summarizing, if you aim at designing a good Value Proposition, wear your customer's shoes!

Nice to find this topic here cause I'm also a bit confused about it.

I have feeling that I'm turning all the time round and round when it goes about pains and gains. I have case of financial institution. Let's say job to do is to "get loan". If I get it right, one of the pain could be "spend too much time to understand complicated contract", gain could be "not much time needed to understand contract".
It looks like opposite things, should it looks like this? If so, what it gives to my client, what is the aim? I'm afraid the group can be easily bored when willl have to do the same things but from the other perspective.
The other issue is what would be in this case pain killer and gain creator? I'm thinking aboutr short, easy written contract, but is it pain killer or gain creator.
Would be very grateful if you can share your experience and opinion.


Let me refer back to the difference between these two concepts - pains relate to barriers, impediments to getting the job done or the problem solved, gains are the outcomes to be achieved by doing the job well or solving the problem.

In the case of getting a loan, my challenge to you is to get clarity on the real pain. Is the issue the time it takes, or the complexity making it hard to understand. This would be determined by interviews with representatives of the client segment. It could be the form is just too long and takes a lot of time to complete, but let's take it as read it would be the complexity that is the issue.

You could express the pain as being a complex application or contract form, in which case your reliever would be to focus on simplifying the contract or application to make it easier to understand.

The gain, or outcome, the customer hopes to achieve is a decrease in time for application and quicker turn around on results. Your solution may create that through a faster process of application and better guides to cut down the time it takes to apply.

Putting these ideas together in a simplified statement - You simplify the contract / application forms (pain relief) so the customers can shorten the time it takes to apply for and get a loan (gain creator).

Frank, here is a optimization of the model trying to tackle this problem:

Hi guys,

             I am afraid my response might sound a little academic.  But when I started doing process improvement.

Security Consulting, Managed Security Services

Hi Frank, and all in this discussion,

I m a co-author of the upcoming book on Value Proposition with Alex, Alan and Yves.

We now have a draft of the first section ready and after coming across your discussion here (and the challenges of sorting through pains and gains), we'd really love to share it with you and hear your thoughts on what we came up with.

If you are keen to take part in the group of early reviewers, send me a quick email at and I'll invite you in.

Quick update - to let you know that we are getting very close to finishing the book and therefore are closing the review process to new invitees. Sign up here to be notified when the book comes out:

Thanks for the words of encouragement sent so far, it'll soon be out !

Hi Frank,

Actually this issue was very embarrassing when you have a workshop with people try to understand how to design their value proposition, using VPD Canvas.

As soon as they start, you receive questions like what about the cost? because it they can put it on both, pains as a negative point, and as a gain if it is a positive point when he gets some savings.


But I found a new tip that could make this easier and more logical, and want to discuss it with people who faced the same conflict, which is:

1- We agreed that such points, should be indicated only once either in the pans or the gains.

2- The rule that will guide us to put it here or there depends on the customer segment.

For example:

If we are talking about the cost issue, so, capable or wealthy segments can get it as a Gain. cause it is not critical if it is expensive for them, but it will be an added value if ther will be a money saving.


And the vice versa, 

For a segment like a teenager the cost element is a pain. so, it is better to be there than to be in the gain.

Actually it worked with people, and they found it more logical.

If you think this approach could solve this issue, please tell me how do you think of it :)


Thank you.

I'll try to give my point of view.

I think that we have to focus the customer's priority.

The same issue generate different feelings in the customers.

If the first thing I've thought is "Time to customize the product" instead of "Quick customization" it means that pain is too strong than gain so I will stick this issue in Pain relievers.

In this case Quick customization is a sort of son-thought of "Time to customization the product".

I hope to be helpfull.


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