When in 1961 Rosser Reeves published the inner workings of the unique selling proposition [U.S.P.], he changed the way we market our products and services by showing us how to link up ‘unique‘, ‘selling‘ and ‘call to action‘ in a clear message.
From his modest beginnings as a staff copywriter in the early ’40s, Mr. Reeves went on to become Chairman of the board of Ted Bates & Co, one of the 5 most prestigious ad agencies on Madison Avenue. He knew how to ‘move inventory’.
The Unique Selling Proposition
The author of Reality in Advertising articulates the concept of unique selling proposition around 3 key components. In his exact words:
- Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer. Not just words, not just product puffery, not just show-window advertising. Each advertisement must say to each reader:”Buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit”.
- The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot, or does not, offer. It must be unique—either a uniqueness of the brand or a claim not otherwise made in that particular field of advertising.
- The proposition must be so strong that it can move the mass millions, i.e., pull over new customers to your product.
Source: Reality in Advertising, Rosser Reeves, 1961
Good examples to draw from
Any advertising copy can be filtered through these 3 criteria to measure the strength of the proposition it makes. Exceptional advertising headlines stand on their own as full-blown U.S.Ps.
Each of the following tag lines and headlines have U.S.P. power
“Stops halitosis!” — Listerine
Immediately emphasizes the main benefit while stressing the uniqueness of the mouthwash by cornering the use of the medical Latin word for ‘bad breath’.
“Hot, fresh pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed” — Domino’s pizza
Convenience, speed, mouth-watering proposition, originally backed by a solid money-back guarantee.
“When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” — Fedex
Speed of service very strongly emphasized, fully backed by a solid money-back guarantee.
“It melts in your mouth, not in your hands” — M&Ms
Stresses the one benefit that completely sets apart a product otherwise banal.
“We try harder” — Avis
The market wanted a higher level of service from car rental companies. A distant #3 on the U.S. market, Avis delivered the goods with all its personnel adopting the “try harder” (to please the customer) attitude. Subsequently Avis rose to spot #2.
“Kills bugs dead” — Raid
We dislike bugs. We want them dead. Deader than dead. Raid delivers the benefit in one punchy 3-word tag line, emphasizing it with repetition.
“The Third place between home and work” — Starbucks
Emphasizes a quiet, pleasant space ‘in between’, where the constraints of work and family do not exist.
“The soap that floats” — Ivory soap, Procter & Gamble
This late 19th century tag line emphasized the uniqueness and convenience of Ivory, a soap bar you didn’t have to fish for at the bottom of your murky bathtub water.
“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock” — Rolls-Royce
Mythical ad emphasizing the exceptional comfort of RR cars. Written by ad legend David Ogilvy.
More on crafting your U.S.P.
A USP is not necessarily a short tag line — Ogilvy’s headline for Rolls-Royce counts 15 words. But it always stresses one single promise, a unique benefit that sells to the target market.
Legendary business consultant Jay Abraham expounds on Rosser Reeves’s concept by stressing that a benefit does not appeal to all segments of all markets:
“…You will not appeal to everybody. In fact, certain USPs are designed to appeal to only one segment of a market…”
He insists that each business line can have its own U.S.P.:
“…There’s no rule that says you can’t, by adopting different USPs, develop different businesses or separate divisions of your business…”
Jay Abraham also warns entrepreneurs that a U.S.P. is not just a tag line, but a company-wide attitude and belief.
“All your in-store clerks, telephone staff, receptionists, customer-service people — everyone with any public contact or customer interaction or anyone who makes any decision that impacts your business — must fully understand, embrace and believe in your USP. That passionate belief in your USP must become part of every employee.”
Finally, Rosser Reeves explains that a U.S.P. “is not a tight, close structure”.
“It may be stated in words… Or a U.S.P. may be put only partly into words… Or, the U.S.P. may be a most fluid combination of words and pictures…
“There are only three criteria:
“Does the advertisement project a proposition? Is it unique? And will it sell?…”
U.S.P. and elevator speech
A few days ago, a fellow marketer shared a video clip published on Forbes.com by Carmine Gallo, the author of a number of best-selling titles including The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs — a marvelous textbook on the Do’s and Don’t’s of Powerpoint and Keynotes presentations.
In this short video, Carmine Gallo offers a simple methodology to build a percussive 15-second elevator speech. His 3-step approach includes:
- Writing a Twitter-friendly headline;
- Blending 3 reinforcement points within the 140-character headline; and,
- Preparing 2-3 extra supporting points for each of the reinforcement points in order to sustain a longer conversation.
As a preamble to applying the technique, you have to know the ‘story’ behind the product and the company. The video clip can be found at http://onforb.es/Oc1uBN
I thought it would be interesting to blend Carmine Gallo’s technique and Rosser Reeves’s U.S.P. to produce a more targeted, better-selling elevator speech.
Based on Rosser Reeves’s and Jay Abraham’s recommendations, it is entirely advisable to create a U.S.P. per product line or department, and specifically targeted for specific market segments.
After all, you don’t speak with your banker in the same ways you address a savvy audience in a tech conference or talk to your pals at the local Hell’s Angels bar.
Creating multiple U.S.Ps, product by product, target by target, will also enable you to achieve a clearer vision of your general U.S.P.
Here is the resulting infographics. [Links to the downloadable versions can be found beneath the graphics.]
Infographics: Deliver Your Unique Selling Proposition in a 15-Second Elevator Speech
Download the branded version of this infographics here: http://bit.ly/O0D13N
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To your success!