Is a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) enough?

The concept of “Unique Selling Proposition” has been around for decades. It was a concept developed to explain why some advertising was more successful than others and how to make your advertising more successful.

A USP is centred on identifying and promoting a unique benefit of a product or service in your advertising. By identifying a unique benefit, and showcasing it, you are able to stand out from the crowd. Effective advertising showcasing a USP has enabled businesses to take clients away from their competitors and dominate industries.

In decades past, there was not as much competition as there is now. With greater competition, the ability to identify a USP has become increasingly difficult, depending on the maturity of the industry.

If you are in a mature industry, then chances are that most avenues for developing a USP have been covered so the variations between products/services will have become small. Your ability to provide a product or service that is significantly better than your competitors will have become greatly reduced. In this scenario, you run the risk that in identifying your USP, it is seen as trivial, even worthless, which could do more harm than good.

So where do you go, or where have businesses gone when they are struggling to identify a meaningful USP? They have looked to establish an emotional connection with their target market. They look to show the difference that they can make in people’s lives. If this messaging is relatable then it will potentially obtain cut through.

Are Nike’s more about unique technology or that you too could be as good or look as cool as the person in the ad? Why drink Coke? Is there much difference between Coke and Pepsi or in the case of Coke, is it due to all the cool people shown drinking it and the message “Coke adds life!”. With this type of advertising, they connect with you emotionally and sell you a dream.

With something as mundane as electricity, how do you stand out with your advertising? Given the generic nature of electricity, identifying a USP is not so easy. If two electricity companies generate electricity in the same way, which advertising do you think will be more effective: a) One company’s advertising is focused on a happy family enjoying a picnic in a clean green environment, with the messaging talking about how the electricity company uses renewable resources and therefore helps to make that possible versus b) The other company’s advertising focuses on giving you greater flexibility on how you pay your bill. What would be more impactful for you?

The electricity company that promotes that they are environmentally friendly is tapping into a popular concern and by choosing them, they want to make you feel that you are helping save the environment. They will make a difference in people’s lives. Giving people greater ways to pay their bill may be different, but it is hardly an emotional connection and won’t make you feel like you are making a difference or that it will make that big of a difference in their lives. Chances are, the other company will be offering something similar anyway!

Offering something that is different may not be enough. Creating an emotional connection, making people feel that you will make a difference may well be!

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