Identifying Your USP–Unique Selling Proposition

Rosser Reeves, an advertising guru from the 1940’s, the phrase “unique selling proposition” (or USP), a concept that is still relevant today. A USP is exactly what it sounds like it is–a unique selling proposition–something about you, or your product or service that is different from competing products and services in important ways that represent value for your potential customers. In addition to being unique, it’s important that your USP be unique in such a way that it represents value for your target audience. (Not value, based on your POV, but value based on their POV!)

In some cases, your USP may be very apparent. In other cases, you may need to spend a great deal of time thinking of a “slant” that’s effective and appropriate. Maybe, as in the case of Maytag and their “lonely” repair staff, your USP is more a subjective image than a hard fact. The point is that once you’ve developed a USP, you have a hook that can help you grab the customer but only if you use it effectively in your communication materials.

To identify a USP you need to consider the following:

  • Which product or service benefits are most important to your target market?
  • Which benefits do you “own” (e.g., the benefits are not already claimed by your competitors and cannot be easily imitated by your competitors)?
  • Which benefits will be most easily understood by your target audience?

The resulting statement should be a one-line statement that contains a clearly identifiable, unique benefit that is meaningful to your market. Do you remember the following?

  • Wonder Bread: “Helps build strong bodies 12 ways.”
  • KFC: “Finger-lickin’ good.”
  • Burger King: “Have it your way.”

Note that in each of these statements it is not the literal translation of the words, but the overall impact of the benefit implied in each statement that makes the USP truly powerful. That is the challenge that marketing communicators should embrace when working toward the development of copy that will achieve results.

Note, also, that each of these statements could have been made by the competition in each product category. But, they didn’t claim it first! The power of an effective USP is that it can create the  perception of uniqueness in the mind of consumers.

Once you’ve developed a USP it should be implicit in all of your communication materials. It becomes a reflection of your brand promise expressed in a way that is meaningful and differentiating from your audience’s POV.

I write more about USP’s and how they can be effectively created and communicated to generate measurable results in my upcoming book Direct Mail in the Digital Age.

What’s your USP?

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