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A unique selling proposition (USP) is a succinct, memorable message that identifies the unique benefits that are derived from using your product or service as opposed to a competitor’s. A USP should be used as a strong and consistent part of an advertising campaign. It can be painted on the company’s cars or trucks, printed on the letterhead, and used in the packaging copy. It becomes, essentially, a positioning statement—a declaration of your company’s unique standing within the marketplace as defined by your product’s benefits.

Often a USP is a quick and snappy condensation of the company’s strategy. This is especially true when a company offers one type of product or service. But even more so than most strategies, USPs tend to focus on one or two of the most powerful and easily communicated benefits derived from using a product or service.

The USP might focus on price, quality, dependability, breadth or depth of the product or service line, technical edge, fashion, customization, specialization, or nature of service.

Why develop a USP?
Why can’t a company simply describe its products, benefits, and features? Why must it be locked into a consistent image? Why can’t the benefit focus change from one advertising or publicity campaign to the next?

Every day, each person is bombarded with literally thousands of advertising messages in newspapers and magazines, on television, on the radio, on the sides of buses, on billboards, and even through computer on-line services. Because advertisements are so inescapable, all of us tend to shut out a great deal of the messages they impart. Most ads also have a low recall rate—few people remember them for any length of time after having seen or experienced them.

To build long-term product recognition, an advertiser should focus on getting consumers to remember one succinct and consistent message regarding its product. To expect consumers to remember a continually changing or drawn-out message is a near-futile hope.

It is particularly important that a USP immediately convey one of the strongest competitive advantages of using your product. Otherwise you are simply engaging in trade association-type advertising or, in other words, promoting all products within your marketplace or industry.

Marketers should strive to create a significant perception of difference between their product and the offerings of competitors. This becomes particularly important, and of course a more difficult job, when competitive products or services have virtually identical features that offer like benefits. Developing a USP that accomplishes this task is called product differentiation.

For example, a perfume manufacturer could use the product name, packaging, and advertising to create a certain distinct mood or feeling about each of its product lines. It can carefully target each line to a specific audience.

Think of Shalimar—“The Gardens of Shalimar have inspired thousands of lovers. And one perfume.” Or Liz Claiborne’s Vivid—“A spirit that will not be denied.”

Similarly, a cola bottler or brewer of beer may use a USP to identify its product with a fun and appealing lifestyle that creates a positive product differentiation.

Great examples of effective product differentiation include Wal-Mart’s “Always the low price,” FedEx’s “Absolutely, positively overnight,” UPS's “We run the tightest ship in the shipping business,” Stouffer’s “Nothing comes closer to home,” or Midas Muffler’s “Guaranteed for as long as you own your car.”

* Source Streetwise Small Business Start-Up

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