USP – Unique Selling Proposition
USP: Brief Summary
In marketing terms, the abbreviation USP stands for unique selling proposition, or unique selling point, and describes the features that help a business, brand, product or service to stand out from its competitors. Generally speaking, it is presented by the seller as the reason why their company, product or service is superior to rivals, or why it is unique, with the intention of convincing customers to commit to it.
As a concept, USP is concerned with the specific characteristics or promises that distinguish a brand and its offerings from similar brands and offerings on the market. The key to the entire USP concept, therefore, is differentiation. By successfully identifying a unique selling proposition, and effectively communicating that proposition to a target audience, businesses are often able to convince customers to switch brands.
USP: Detailed Summary
Unique selling proposition and unique selling point both emerged as popular terms to describe a trend within television advertising, where the unique value of products was being highlighted in an attempt to lure customers away from competitors. The two terms are believed to have been coined by the advertising executive Rosser Reeves and feature in his book, Reality In Advertising, which was originally published back in 1960.
Reeves believed that a USP should be the single reason why a customer should buy one product, instead of another, and helped to develop advertising slogans for products like M&Ms and Colgate toothpaste, which were able to convey such reasons. However, since then, the concept has expanded far beyond the field of television advertising and is now a recognised business and marketing concept, allowing companies to stand out and gain market share.
For businesses, one of the main keys to success is to identify the needs of their target audience and create products and services with unique features, which satisfy those needs in a way competing products and services do not. The USP then needs to be communicated to that target audience through effective marketing, with the aim of influencing them to buy the product, commit to the brand, or consider switching from a rival. Search engine marketing has had an enormous influence in recent years on the way customers find the product offering the USP they’re looking for.
It is important to understand that the unique aspect of a selling proposition does not have to be the physical product itself. With existing products, where a USP has not yet been identified, user feedback can be extremely helpful in a company’s search for their USP. By maintaining good content with their customers and asking them what it is they like about a product, businesses can start to develop a better understanding of their USP. They’ll also be more attuned to what their customers look for, which can help with future products as well.
Once a USP has been identified or decided upon, one of the main challenges for a company is to retain that unique value. After all, as soon as there are other products or services on the market that offer the same thing to customers, it is no longer a unique offering. However, it is possible for the USP of a product to change over time, making it necessary for companies to maintain good contact with their target market. Ultimately, a USP is a matter of understanding customer motives and positioning products accordingly.
Examples of USPs
The range of possible unique selling propositions that can be offered to customers is almost limitless, and will largely depend on the business, its specific area of expertise, its target market and its competitors. Some common examples of areas that are highlighted as a USP by businesses are outlined below:
Product, Service, Pricing, Ethics, Distribution, Audience
- Product – This is where a business has a product that is completely different from anything else on the market, either in terms of appearance or function. Although it is relatively rare for businesses to come up with completely unique products, when it does occur, the product itself can be promoted as a USP.
- Service – Alternatively, a company’s unique selling proposition could be a level of service that stands out from the pack. This could entail anything from faster delivery times and superior customer support, to better hygiene standards. It might even include things like loyalty programmes, or a greater level of post-sale contact.
- Pricing – When a business offers a product or service at a price that is different from competitors, this can be communicated as its unique selling point. While offering the product at a lower price than direct rivals may be the most obvious example, many luxury products are intentionally sold at a high price, adding to their prestige.
- Ethics – An increasingly popular area to explore during the search for a USP, many people can be convinced to buy from one company instead of another on ethical grounds. For example, a business could promote steps they take to limit damage to the environment, or emphasise the fact that they do not use animal products.
- Distribution – In some cases, while the product may not be unique in itself, the way it is distributed may be. For instance, it could be that something is available online, where competing products are sold in physical form, or it could be that something is sold via a subscription model, when it would usually require individual purchases.
- Audience – Often, the unique selling point of a product is actually centred around the audience it is being aimed towards. A product might be targeted towards the opposite gender from rival products, or it may be aimed at a different age group, or towards people with a different personality type.
Conveying a USP
Identifying the unique selling proposition of a product or service is one thing, but in order for it to generate improved business performance, action needs to be taken in order to communicate the USP with customers or users. For most companies, this is done through things like traditional advertising or content marketing, and success often depends on the USP being significant, memorable and clearly explained.
A company’s USP can be conveyed to customers at almost any user touchpoint or user contact. It is especially important for the unique value of a product or service to be highlighted on website landing pages and in product descriptions. Furthermore, a unique selling proposition can be contained within a company slogan, or can be communicated more directly when members of the sales team make contact with prospective customers.
USP and unique selling proposition are marketing terms, which refer to the single thing that helps a company, brand, product or service to stand out from its competition. The entire concept is connected to the idea of differentiation and can be communicated to customers through adverts, website content, product descriptions, search and slogans.
Creating or identifying a USP usually requires research into the wants, needs and expectations of a target audience. Among other things, a product’s USP might be its price, its appearance, or the way it is distributed. In some cases, the product itself can also be a USP, as long as it is significantly different from competing products. Moreover, companies can have USPs, with examples including unique customer service methods, or superior ethical standards.