The Unique Selling Proposition (USP) concept is pleasingly simple to grasp. It’s a lot like horoscope reading, or Donald Trump, as it seems to offer semi-magical power to make friends and influence customers. Too bad it’s an illusion.
This flimflammery was coined by (Mad Men prototype) Rosser Reeves in the 1940s, and used by his Ted Bates advertising agency, to make boatloads of money plugging the USPs of various brands in the early days of television. He gave credit for the successes to USP, and just never you mind the mind-numbing repetition, cheap airtime, or ethically-dubious claims for his toothpaste, cigarette and candy advertisers.
And yes, it takes heavy repetition to make that old warhorse work. No matter what market you live in, there is one car dealer with a gimmick (waving a fist full of money, corny jokes, singing, jumping on the hood of a used car, whatever) who appears endlessly on station breaks in fringe time. He knows his brand is unique, because he’s unique. But I digress.
The USP faltered and failed beginning in the ’60s with the advent of more engaging advertising, more insights into buyer behavior, and higher media costs. Nevertheless, you still find USP adherents a half-century later, many of whom have an exaggerated faith in differentiation, and an unprovable faith in rational audiences.
There are, of course, more strategic and more measurable marketing methods. Ask us about them.