3rd August 2015 | Ben

Branding, Marketing strategy

Unique selling point – is this just a string of marketing buzzwords?

You might already know that we’re quite a vocal bunch and can’t help but have our say on topical issues that come up regularly in the media, often sparking debate in the office. This USP theory is no exception as, after all, it is our job to constantly question and challenge anything that is thrown in our direction… usually by our clients!

A national supplier to the NHS asked us recently what makes them different and how they can stand out from their competition in a very ‘unsexy’ market. They were expecting a funky, creative answer. But what they got was a marketing lesson!

Ever since the introduction of marketing back in the 40’s, the idea of a unique selling proposition (USP) was formed to explain the pattern of successful marketing ultimately using it to convince consumers to switch brands. The theory is that a proposition positions the company as offering something unique to consumers; a differentiating benefit that sets them above other companies.

Compare the market The USP theory has been tested for years within companies through their own marcomms activity, with many defining their selling point as ‘unique’ but rarely actually presenting any unique qualities. So, how do you use an advertising campaign to make a company’s offering unique?

Take Compare the Market, Direct Line and Aviva for example, three clever TV ad campaigns that evoke three different perceptions within a consumer’s mind. Compare the Market uses a meerkat, Direct Line a talking bulldog and Aviva uses various Paul Whitehouse characters. What each company’s advertising has done is create a persona for the brand centred on characters which differentiates them from one another in a very competitive market. However whilst their ad campaigns appear to portray three different services, their core product is exactly the same: insurance. It really is “simples” (…sorry)

Nowadays, it has become common-place to use toys or mascots to represent the brand through advertising as there is a perception that this is what makes your company unique but it’s really just creative smoke and mirrors! It doesn’t differentiate your core product offering, it just makes it look shiny, appealing and different on the surface. And this is what our NHS supplier wanted. A creative, smokey mirror… but…

standing-out-from-the-crowd_2 Marketing is about standing out from competitors and experience tells us that instead of an attention grabbing ad campaign, what really makes us unique is people and user experience. And this is the answer we gave. Do it better. Do it differently and people will remember you and choose you.

Consumers are much more cynical these days; with plenty of choice and opinion readily available on the internet, these keyboard warriors are much more sceptical of advertising than ever before. The ultimate purchasing decision rests on whether consumers are receiving added value and a complete user experience…so is an all-singing all-dancing meerkat really going to shout unique for much longer?

People buy from people and unless you are a large multi-million pound brand with a loyal consumer base, what makes you unique is YOU and your people. Play to your strengths; do what you do best and listen to your customers. Ask them what they like and don’t like and what you could improve. It certainly works for us!

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