The importance of establishing a Unique Selling Proposition for your product is widely accepted by business experts as a way to distinguish yourself from the competition.
Here’s the idea behind the USP: If your product isn’t different and better than other products of the same type, there’s no reason for customers to buy your product instead of your competition’s.
So to be advertised effectively, your product must have a USP – a major benefit that other similar products don’t offer.
Although you can sell your product by talking about all of its benefits, the most successful advertisements highlight a single benefit above all others.
If you want to successfully sell a new product in an established market, you must do one of two things:
- Make it better than your competition, or
- Make it seem better
Ideally, you want to create a product that’s clearly superior to all others in its category. FedEx followed this first method.
Often times, however, your product is only a little better – and it some ways worse – than your competitor’s. Or there may be practically no difference between your product and everyone else’s. In this case, you must look for a benefit your competitors haven’t stressed – and make that your USP. 7-Up and Schlitz followed this second method.
When Fred Smith founded FedEx, he created a better way to deliver packages than UPS and the U.S. Postal Service. By adopting the hub-and-spoke distribution model, they were able to offer overnight package delivery to their customers.
This was a genuine improvement over what the competition was offering. However, FedEx still had to sell this improvement.
So to emphasize this advantage, they came up with the slogan “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” The campaign was a success, and FedEx grew into a Fortune 500 company.
When introducing 7-Up to the marketplace, company officials had a different challenge. The only trait that made the drink unique was its lack of color. At first glance, this was only a benefit for the manufacturer because it lowered production costs.
To come up with a USP, the executives had to ask themselves this question: “How could we make a plain-looking drink with no color a good thing for our customers?”
Answer – they decided to pitch the product as better because it was different.
It was like a cola, yet it wasn’t actually cola. They borrowed the cola’s reputation, positioned itself as unique from it, and called itself “the Uncola.” Through this campaign, net sales grew more than $100 million over the next ten years.
Back in the 1920′s, there were about 10 brewing companies competing for the same market. Unfortunately, all of them – including Schlitz – emphasized the same benefit: The beer was pure.
To try and differentiate themselves, they hired a marketing consultant, who was able to dig up the following information:
- Schlitz conducted more than 1,600 experiments over five years to find the finest mother yeast cell that produced the richest flavor.
- The water was distilled by being heated to 5,000 degrees before it was used to brew beer.
- The bottles were sterilized at 1,600 degrees.
- Every batch of beer was tested for quality before it was shipped out.
This meticulous process fascinated the consultant. He advised them to create a USP by describing the steps they take to ensure the beer’s purity.
The owners assumed that since all brewing companies did the same thing, that this was nothing worth bragging about. But the key here was that no company in the industry had told their customers how they did it.
Schlitz began using this as a marketing strategy. In doing this, they were able to be the first company that came to the customer’s mind when thinking of beer that’s pure. Within six months Schlitz dominated the marketplace and climbed to number one in market sales.
So what can we learn from these three success stories?
Three Keys to a Solid Unique Selling Proposition
If it’s not unique like FedEx or 7-Up, it must at least appear that way, like Schlitz.
2) Ensure Usefulness
If the distinguishing characteristic of your product is not wanted, no one will buy it. Uniqueness alone is not enough. Your product must also actually benefit the buyer.
To figure out how your product does this, look at similar products in the market and identify unfulfilled customer needs. Then figure out how you can meet those needs, such as by providing
- faster service
- lower prices
- higher quality
- more convenience
- greater personal service
- a better guarantee
3) Keep it Simple
Lastly, few complicated products ever become popular. Since you have to sell the USP, keep in mind that it won’t sell if it’s difficult to explain.
Photo by rossaroni
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