Focusing on one benefit in your USP makes it easy for customers to understand and remember through repeated exposures to your marketing messages but is it enough?
Various guides to creating a USP (Unique Selling Proposition or Unique Selling Point) stress that you MUST focus on communicating one benefit that is different from that offered by competitors.
I don’t agree.
If only the real world was that simple.
I believe that effective differentiation and communication and perception of how one supplier is different from another is usually multi-dimensional.
I touched on this subject when I looked at what makes Amazon unique and special:
It’s also a point that is emphasised well when you look at Customer Value Attribute Maps and how you can start thinking about creating your own differentiated value proposition.
Did Fedex Concentrate On One Benefit In Their USP?
The Fedex USP is one of the most quoted examples of a business that got it right.
When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.
Some marketing experts will tell you that this positioning statement emphasises the importance of speed.
How can you tell?
The last word in the statement… overnight.
It was used at a time when fast delivery meant 2 to 3 days.
That Fedex meant fast delivery is indisputable.
But the company didn’t leave the statement at “we will deliver your package overnight” or “we deliver tomorrow”.
Much of the power of their USP came from two other words… absolutely, positively.
That’s not about speed necessarily.
It’s about a firm promise that emphasises consistency and reliability.
Any freight company could have made a marketing promise to deliver overnight.
It took a special one to be able to promise to reliably deliver overnight. One that had its USP running through the entire business design of systems and processes. This isn’t marketing but business strategy backed by the entire business.
It relied on a commitment by all employees to speed and reliability.
The conclusion – the Fedex famous guarantee is two dimensional – reliability and speed. Representing it as a single dimension example is just wrong and reduces the power of the promise considerably.
Did Domino’s Pizza USP Concentrate On A Single Benefit?
If there is one USP that is more often quoted by writers than Fedex as a great example of a powerful value proposition, it is that of Domino’s Pizza.
You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less — or it’s free.
Like Fedex, some marketing experts will say that this USP emphasises speed as the main benefit.
Again I can’t argue that speed isn’t one element but it isn’t the only one.
That might have reduced the statement to “We deliver within 30 minutes.”
That isn’t nearly as compelling.
If we de-construct it we have:
- fresh – recently cooked, perhaps even specially cooked for your order
- hot – ready to eat immediately, you won’t have to warm it up in the oven
- delivered to your door – convenient. You can relax and carry on watching the game, talking to your friends etc
- in 30 minutes or less – here is the emphasis on speed
- or it’s free – a guarantee of reliability
If you take out any of those elements, the USP isn’t as compelling.
- You get hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less — or it’s free.
- You get fresh pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less — or it’s free.
- You get fresh, hot pizza in 30 minutes or less — or it’s free.
- You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door — or it’s free.
- You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less
They are still strong because the adjusted USPs still emphasise four compelling benefits. Just not as strong.
The fabulous thing about the Domino’s statement is that it says a lot in just 17 words that, with repetition, sink into the brain.
The combination ups the ante. perhaps a competitor could sometimes beat it on speed within a small area but could it match, let alone beat every element.
Domino’s was again specially designed to deliver on its promise. The statement was much more than marketing. It defined the purpose of the business.
It also created a lot of connections back to Domino’s.
You want fresh pizza – go to Domino’s.
Hot? The same.
Delivered to the door? Yes you’ve got it.
The more the statement became well known, the more competitors had to avoid those specific claims because they would be reminding people’s subconsciously of Domino’s
Are you sceptical?
Well what do you think about when you hear “the ultimate driving machine”?
So what if you heard “it’s a fantastic driving machine” or “the ultimate driving experience”?
Your mind is going to go back to BMW.
This is the power that a great USP can have on the branding that really matters – the connections in your brain.
Your USP – Should You Aim For Multiple Attributes?
Imagine you own a ladies shoe shop.
There’s a lot to be said for creating a USP based on selection.
“We have over 500 different types of shoes, boots and sandals for the woman who knows what she likes.”
A single attribute USP is easy to understand, easy to communicate and provided it is genuinely unique, it will establish your position quickly.
All these points are very important.
The problem is that one factor of uniqueness can be copied and beaten more easily than a multiple attribute based unique selling proposition.
Hopefully your competitors will have more sense than to compete head on and will choose a different basis to differentiate their business. But if your market is big, the range of viable single attribute USPs might be small.
Imitation is inevitable.
A ladies shoe superstore might open.
“We have over 2,500 different types of ladies footwear…”
The original store doesn’t have the money to stock multiple products in multiple sizes and it doesn’t have the retail space either. Their USP has been one-upped and its USP now proclaims its weakness rather than strength.
Even worse, a shoe equivalent of Amazon might appear on the Internet that stocks/supplies on a game-changing basis.
“We have over 25,000 different types …”
If you are going for a single attribute USP, you need a competitive advantage that competitors can’t or won’t achieve.
A multi-dimensional USP is more complicated and demanding.
It’s harder for you to do.
It’s also much harder for your competitors to copy.
It’s even better if your USP causes conflict with their USP to stop them trying to straddle.
It’s difficult to be big and small at the same time. Or cheap and high levels of service.
Finding the basis for your USP is a big decision. It’s not something to think about for a couple of hours and then create it.
You need to understand your business and its strengths and weaknesses, your customers and what they want and need and your competitors. You also need to consider what’s happening now and what’s likely to happen in the future.
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