Introducing the most misunderstood and misused term in advertising: “U.S.P.”(Unique Selling Proposition).

NOTE: This is the third in a series of four posts,outlining my view as to what is involved in developing powerful, branded marketing communications. Post #1(October 17) below provided an overview. Post #2 November 6) explained the “what” and the “why” of the Brand Essence. This Post #3 presents the U.S.P. or Unique Selling Proposition. It will be followed by, last but not least, Post #4 on the role of the Individual Sales Messages.

Perhaps no advertising term has been so indiscriminately and consistently (yes, I said CONSISTENTLY!) misused as U.S.P. or Unique Selling Proposition. Defined by Rosser Reeves, legendary Chairman of Ted Bates agency, in his 1961 seminal advertising book, Reality in Advertising (only $153.00 USED on Amazon), U.S.P. has become recognized worldwide as something that effective marketing communications must have. Unfortunately, most practitioners of advertising, then and now, have only a very dim idea of what a U.S.P. really is and how to arrive at one.

Father of the U.S.P.

Reeves had developed the U.S.P. based on years and millions of dollars spent researching the effectiveness of Bates and competitive agencies’ advertisements. He effectively (and concisely) captured all that learning into what was the ideal selling concept, or what made an advertisement or campaign WORK.

Even in 1961 Reeves observed that U.S.P “is the most misused series of letters in advertising. Applied loosely and without understanding to slogans, headlines, visuals and more —in fact to most anything that advertising creators consider slightly different   from what they find in their competitors’ advertisements.”

U.S.P. — The Definition

Actually, and what I hope to sort out here, is that U.S.P. is a PRECISE term, and in Reeves words, “deserves a precise definition.” That definition has three parts, from which interestingly the acronym U.S.P. is derived. Imagine that!

PROPOSITION: Each communication must make a proposition to the customer. By “proposition” this means, buy this and you will get this specific benefit.

UNIQUE: The proposition must be one that competition cannot or does not offer. It can be a unique feature or benefit but, AND THIS IS IMPORTANT, it can be derived from the uniqueness of the brand itself. This latter consideration is especially relevant in today’s crowded and many times over-regulated advertising field, where many brands within a category essentially do the same thing. Many marketers give up and say, “There’s nothing unique about my offering, so I’ll just say what it does.” Remember, there is always the possibility of being unique, as long as the BRAND’s uniqueness is capitalized upon.

SELLING: The proposition must be capable “selling” new customers to come to a product or service, or convincing existing ones to remain loyal, even in the face of new competitive entreaties.

Do you want a U.S.P. or not?

So you see, every brand CAN have a U.S.P., and by doing so can have more effective marketing. Unfortunately, most SME’s either have some distorted perception of what they think is their U.S.P, which in fact is really just an execution variation on what their competition is already doing. Or, they don’t even try to develop an ownable U.S.P. These SME’s without a U.S.P. could be described in the words of Jay Abraham, a marketing consultant self described as “the most expensive and successful marketing consultant on the planet”, who gave an excellent description of these U.S.P.-less brands as being …“only ‘me too’, rudderless, nondescript, unappealing businesses that feed solely upon the sheer momentum of the marketplace. There’s nothing unique; there’s nothing distinct. They promise no great value, benefit, or service—just ‘buy from us’ for no justifiable, rational reason.”

Door #1 —Do you want your business to be successful? Brand it and get a powerful U.S.P.

Door #2 — Do you want your marketing results to just depend on the “momentum of the marketplace?” Good luck; you’ll need it.

If you want me to help you open Door #1, contact me mike@SMEbrandleverage.com.

Door #1 —Do you want your business to be successful? Brand it and get a powerful U.S.P.

Door #2 — Do you want your marketing results to just depend on the “momentum of the marketplace?” Best of luck.

If you want me to help you open Door #1, contact me mike@SMEbrandleverage.com.

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