Not What You Think

unique_selling_propositionAh, the Unique Selling Proposition (USP)!  For years it has been the Holy Grail of advertising companies, corporate biggies and B-school profs.

Unfortunately, it has been abused so much that it’s almost disappeared.  It used to easy to find one for every category – well, maybe not.

The whole idea was to demonstrate something that nobody else could claim – only your company could provide something that was valuable and everybody wanted.

You know what, though?  The USP only existed as a way to describe an attention-getter, not the be-all, end-all turns-your-competitors-into-ugly-monkeys-and-frogs mojo.



Heresy?  Nope!

It’s just an example of what George Gershwin’s famous song from Porgy and Bess had to say “It ain’t necessarily so”.it-aint_necessarily_true

Consider these classic examples of USP’s.

Domino’s Pizza – Pizza Delivered in 30 minutes or it’s Free

Rolls Royce– At 6o miles an hour the loudest noise in the Rolls Royce is The dashboard clock

FedEx –When it absolutely, positively has to be delivered overnight

And, we could look at a lot more of those “classics.”




just_do_itYou have to ask yourself, what sold MORE than all of those?

Answer: Just Do It.

Uh, um, wait – is that a tagline, a USP, or…?

What in heaven’s name does it have to do with a product or a need of the customer – or any and all of that USP stuff?  If you said nothing – you are OH so right.  It proves that what counts is tapping into EMOTIONS!


Frankly, it’s a prime example of Sticky Words©.  It doesn’t address either a claim like “ONLY we have it,” or a customer need/want.  It conjures up a COOL dream IMAGE: “Oh, wow, if I buy a pair of expensive leather sneakers, my days as a couch potato will be over because those new Nikes will make me lean, mean and cool!

It’s UNIQUE, but it’s a unique EMOTIONAL appeal to the psyche of – people who want to be COOL –  so it works.  See also iPhones, Jaguars, 700 horsepower cars.

Cool trumps ALL.  That’s why I write Value Positioning Statements – they’re all about the cool of a product or service in an EMOTIONAL way.  And, they work!