November 9, 2010 by Tom Collins 739 views 0  

Do You Have A “USP”?

Lately we’ve been busy with a lot of re-branding projects for our clients. Some of these are related to the poor economy over the past few years and some are because the proper up-front work was not done to figure out what the brand was or what it needed to be before running off and creating the marketing. Either way, they now find themselves with a brand message that’s not working on all cylinders and not communicating the story they need to be telling to effectively connect with their target and seperate themselves from the competition.

One of the things some of them have forgotten or neglected to clearly define is a positioning and a USP(unique selling proposition) in the market. Alot of people sometimes confuse the two.

Rosser Reeves, Chairman of the ad agency named Ted Bates & Co. invented the term that was the touchstone for the type of advertising he and his agency produced. The term: unique selling proposition, USP for short.

The unique selling proposition was (and is) a single feature or benefit of a product hammered home through ads that focused powerfully and solely on the USP. You’d have to be at least 50 to remember the ads he conceived for Anacin. There was a cartoon arm wielding a hammer to the head of a headache sufferer. Then came a clock face with the hands moving very fast and the single word, FAST, flashed on the screen four times in succession. Then the head become a smiling face signifying the headache was gone – fast.

They were most annoying and very intrusive. But they sold product.

The idea is still sound and effective in sales as well as advertising. However, some people have attempted to use USP and positioning synonymously. Well, they are not the same. I hear some marketing people expressing a USP as their position in the marketplace. They treat the USP as if it were a genuine differentiator when in reality it is a benefit/feature plucked from the market research indicating why people have said they buy a product from the product category.

A USP is just what it says it is: a unique selling proposition. It is an advertising campaign theme. Or the canned sales pitch. It is predicated on making a claim before s competitor can establish that benefit as its own. In other words, Anacin was no faster than Bayer, its only competitor back in the 1950’s. But Anacin used speed of relief first and loudly, making it their own.

Promoting a product’s benefit does not differentiate the product in a significant way. If a particular campaign doesn’t work or gets stale, you ask the agency to come up with another USP. The USP is a device, not a strategy.

I once heard someone claim that you differentiated your product with an USP such as a coupon offer or a two-for-one sale. These may be USP,s but they are not differentiators in the sense of defining a position a brand can occupy in the collective minds of a group of loyal customers.

Al Ries, one of the creators of the term positioning and co-author of the book, Positioning: the Battle for Your Mind, likes to say it’s the single word that comes to mind when the brand is mentioned. For Volvo it’s “safety”. For Whole Foods it’s “organic”. For Sierra Club it’s “environment”. These words come from the essence of the brand. It begins with the corporate mission and the vision for the product. It incorporates corporate values and culture. It’s the brand story, the brand platform, the brand presence. It’s the people associated with the brand at all levels of the supply chain. It’s the leadership of the company and of the brand champions within and outside the company. And it’s the word-of-mouth and status the brand enjoys.

The USP does not normally communicate a genuine product position. There needs to be more than a benefit at the root of the brand and its position.

Lets just sat that positioning is a strategic activity and developing a unique selling proposition is a sales or advertising tactic.



September 27, 2010 by Tom Collins 455 views 1  

16 Steps To A Great Brand.

Every week we’re talking to 20 to 40 potential new clients and the biggest issue they all have tends to be their brand. They come in, we talk about their company, they talk about needing a new brochure or a new ad and that they needed it yesterday. Most of the time these are great discussions and cover everything from interactive marketing and SEO to new logos and social media marketing. Usually by the end of the meeting what we’ve basically found out is that while they do need a new brochure or website, what they need most is work done on developing or redeveloping their brand.

I ran across a great post a few years back from Brad VanAuken on the Branding Blog on “Building Winning Brands” and 16 things you must do to create a winning brand. Of those 16, my favorite was #10.” A brand must stand for something”. Too many times I’ve run across a client that feels that his logo or his building is his brand. While it might be a great logo and a beautiful building, without meaning or substance for what it stands for(to the customer) it not a brand – it’s just a nice logo and a pretty building. A brand has meaning, especially to the customer.

Here’s the other 15 things Brad talks about that create a winning brand.

1. Brands are personifications of organizations, products, services and experiences and they are the  source of relationships.
2. Top management support is critical.
3. The brand’s identity must be frequently and consistently presented.
4. Customer knowledge is essential to building great brands.
5. The brand and its products and services must exceed customer expectations.
6. Brand building begins with awareness.
7. Relevant differentiation drives customer brand insistence.
8. A brand should strive to evoke emotions and create sensory experiences.
9. A brand should exhibit admirable human qualities.
10. A brand must stand for something.
11. Constant product and service innovation build strong brands.
12. A brand should strive to create a sense of community.
13. The corporate culture must reinforce the brand essence, promise and personality.
14. Internal brand building is essential to external brand building.
15. Front line employees are key to a brand’s success.
16. Co-creating a brand with its customers will help the brand continue to thrive.

If you implement each of these  I guarantee you that your brand will win in its marketplace.




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