Introduction to Unique Selling Proposition

unique selling proposition
The different pebbles represent unique selling proposition of different products and services

There is overwhelming agreement in marketing literature that most of the businesses that fail, do so  because they fail to identify their unique selling proposition and send marketing messages about this to their customers and prospects. This applies to all businesses, big or small, and generic or niched.

What is Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

The unique selling proposition or unique selling point is a marketing concept first proposed as a theory to explain a pattern in successful advertising campaigns of the early 1940s. The USP states that such campaigns made unique propositions to customers that convinced them to switch brands. The term was developed by television advertising pioneer Rosser Reeves of Ted Bates & Company. Theodore Levitt, a professor at Harvard Business School, suggested that, “Differentiation is one of the most important strategic and tactical activities in which companies must constantly engage. Wiki.

How do we arrive at our own definition of USP?

According to Reeves we can do this by focusing on our products or service benefits as opposed to features.  We must endeavor to highlight how our product or service is the best and only answer to the prospect’s needs. Our messages should always be taking the competition in to consideration by stating something that the competitors do not offer. In Reality in Advertising, Reeves lamented that the USP is widely misunderstood. He outlined three basic rules for an advertisement that encapsulated his ideas about the USP:

  • Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer—not just words, product puffery, or show-window advertising. Each advertisement must say to each reader: “Buy this product, for this specific benefit.”
  • The proposition must be one the competition cannot or does not offer. It must be unique—either in the brand or a claim the the other competitors do not make.
  • The proposition must be strong enough to move the masses, i.e., attract new customers as well as potential customers.

Herewith is a formula used to define a USP:

USP = Our [company/product/service] is the only one that helps [prospects] solve [specific problem] by [main unique promise or benefit].


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