In marketing academies and business schools up and down the country, you can be sure that people are talking about the humble USP. In the creative industry, we’re trained to look for them. That’s because when someone actually has a genuine USP, it’s marketing gold dust. But a real USP is incredibly rare. This is good news. Because as it happens you don’t really need one.

Part of the reason companies often struggle with the USP is because of the over-importance agencies place on brand love. Instead, brand preference is much more important. In a busy and complicated day, consumers have more choice than ever. So making it easy to for them to remember and choose your brand is much more realistic, and a more effective spend of your budget.

Case Study: Trying to find a USP…

Most of the time, the reason people choose brands is for anything but the USP. To prove this, let’s create a project together. Let’s say you own MegaChips, a 100 year old frozen chip company. Now let’s think about why people might choose MegaChips. Your MegaChips have some unique qualities such as flavour and cut. But all the other brands have their own qualities too.

In a busy and complicated day, consumers have more choice than ever. So making it easy to for them to remember and choose your brand is much more realistic, and a more effective spend of your budget.

To give MegaChips a genuine USP, you would have to be the only product offering a particular feature. Maybe they could come with salt and vinegar already on. Maybe they could be the only branded chips available in the store, or they could be the leading or largest brand.

But virtually nobody has an indestructible USP. For example, MegaChips could sell the cheapest chips in town. But then what happens if someone undercuts us? You could be the first to do cheesy chips. But what if someone else comes along and does that too? Instantly, your USP is gone.

You should also keep in mind the “phantom USP.” This is a USP that seems nice to you, but makes no difference to the customer. As you know MegaChips have been making chips for 100 years. That’s nice and all. But it’s not a reason to choose you.

Priorities

As you can see, we’ve already spent a lot of energy looking for something that might not be there. Instead, it’s better to focus our efforts where we know we can make a difference to you. As always in marketing, that means getting the basics right.

We could focus on the benefits of our chips, (not just what they are and how much they cost.) Instead of worrying about a non existent USP, having a stand out brand and interesting ideas behind your marketing are much more important. It’s the old classic of being clever, interesting or memorable.

Does the customer care?

When you think in this way, you start to realise that the customer doesn’t care about the technology in your chip cutter. They don’t care that you’ve been around for a century. But what they do care about is their Friday night chip butty treat.

Bingo! Now we can meet the customer in their world. One campaign could be about Friday night chip adventures. Maybe it’s a last minute snack before a gig. Maybe a quick bite after putting the kids to bed. Maybe it’s that one treat you give yourself after a run. Who knows. But already we are looking at the problem in the right way.

So what does that mean for your brand? Well, it’s pretty simple in the end. You now know you don’t need a USP to sell. But you do need to connect with your audience. And you need to tempt them to try your brand with interesting and memorable (not to mention well designed) marketing. And that’s how it’s always been.

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