The Unique Selling Proposition. For years marketers have been taught that by focusing on the unique differences between their products and those of their competitors they could cause consumers to beat a path to their door.
Great concept if the choice is between you and one other competitor. Great if you’re still living in the 1940s when USP hit the world of advertising. That’s right. The notion of USP can be traced back to a time when “commodity” was not part of the marketing lexicon. Consumers weren’t faced with the dizzying array of choices they now face when they hit the supermarket aisle, the electronics retailer or any other overcrowded display of any number of products in any number of industries.
The current “sea of sameness” did not exist when the choice was only vinegar or oil, ABC or NBC, Chevy or Ford. As a result of same sounding claims from same sounding brands consumers are paralyzed when it comes to making decisions between products that, on the surface, all look like reasonable choices. If you think your product can stand out in the crowd by virtue of some “not so unique” point of competitive difference try telling that to the pack of MP3 competitors who continue to chase the iPod. You see, contrary to what you might hear, Apple isn’t a product driven company. Apple is a “belief” driven company. Their products are manifestations of the promise Apple made to consumers years before the iPod was ever conceived. Apple was “the computer for the rest of us.” And it still is today.
The birth of UVP.
To truly stand out of the crowd today, your brand must stand for something meaningful—meaningful to the lives of consumers who now demand more than feature-filled products. Consumers who reach out to brands that share their values. The point is this—product attributes, no matter how compelling, cannot build a relationship with today’s consumer. The most powerful method of building a lasting bond between brand and consumer is to discover and communicate your brand’s Unique Values Proposition. Not a focus on what you make but rather a focus on what you believe.
Your brand’s UVP is not only the most compelling way to communicate the “true” difference between you and the host of competitors vying for attention in your category, it also serves as a powerful rallying cry inside your company bringing a greater sense of purpose to your employees. Starbucks doesn’t merely sell coffee, it sells community. Zappos doesn’t sell shoes, it sells happiness. What truly sets your brand apart? If the answer is “new and improved” success will continue to be illusive. If the answer centers around your UVP you’re on your way to building sustained revenue and increased brand value.