You can be a #1 brand. The magic of the Unique Selling Proposition

If you read my last post on brand backcasting, you’re probably here to pick up more tips on DIY brand building.

If you haven’t, let me bring you up to speed on the grand brand experiment underway.

I’ve been helping clients build powerful brands for over 25 years. Today, more than ever, entrepreneurs with small to medium sized businesses are on the rise – we live in a startup world.  As a consequence, I’m seeing a greater need to help clients help themselves. That is, DIY their brand.

With that in mind, I launched the BrandDIY Playbook late 2016. The Playbook takes you through the step-by-step process I follow when I’m building brands. It works.

That said, everything can be improved upon. So in 2019, I wrote the next iteration – BrandDIY.

This post summarizes a powerful element of brand building that I covered in BrandDIY – starting down the road to your Unique Selling Proposition.

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Your unique selling proposition: pure gold

Your unique selling proposition isn’t just an important facet of your brand. It’s the absolute, undisputed linchpin of your brand’s success. Get it right, and your brand has its future charted. Get it wrong, and you spend your time (and money) wandering aimlessly as competitors steal your market share.

I’m not exaggerating. Your USP is the north star by which you guide your business. Virtually every business decision you make – who to hire, what services to provide… heck, what sort of magazines to put in the company restroom – should pass through the USP filter. As you make these decisions, your ideal brand will begin to manifest itself.

Your unique selling proposition is the undisputed linchpin of your brand’s success. Get it wrong, and you spend your time (and money) wandering aimlessly.

So how do you start down the road to a great USP?

Your unique selling proposition starts with you

Every USP starts with a few simple questions you ask yourself: What does my brand do better than any other brand in the world? Who does that matter to? Why? 

It’s deceptively easy. I say deceptively because I’ve never seen a client land on their USP simply by thinking of it themselves. Like every worthwhile brand activity, USP generation is a team sport. Outsider input is critical.

I’ve never seen a client land on their unique selling proposition by themselves. It’s a team sport.

That said, you need to start with you. Because if you leave the USP work entirely to others, you won’t own it. And if you don’t own it, the brand will smack of insincerity.

First unique selling proposition rule: discover your ‘best’

Core to a USP is the need for you to be #1 or #2 at something people value.

Why? Because people only have room for one or two of anything in their head. Name the #3 cola. The #3 car rental agency. The #3 Kardashian. You get my point – there’s limited space in any brain for brands. And no room for also-rans.

But how do you own the #1 slot, if you aren’t Zuckerberg, Jobs, Jesus or Gaga?

Get specific

The good news is, you don’t have to be the best in a broad category (say, soft drinks). You simply have to own a very, very, very specific category. (say, powdered DIY cola mixes with no sugar).

The trick is not to try to be the best in a broad category. Own something specific!

Think of it this way: you’re the brand manager for Land Rover, and you want to nail your Unique Selling Proposition. So you need to decide what piece of real estate in the consumer’s mind you can own. Here’s how to engage in the exercise…

  • I can’t claim that Land Rover is the best car in the world,
  • I can’t even say it’s the best SUV,
  • Maybe I can say it’s the best luxury SUV, although that’s still too broad,
  • But I can say it’s the best luxury SUV with a royal pedigree and a history of traversing the entire globe. Bingo!

Now close your eyes, and think of Land Rover. Although marketing of late has made the product more generic, you probably still think of Land Rover in the context of the Queen, of safaris, of the British Empire and James Bond. If you’re a Land Rover fan, there’s magic and attraction in those thoughts.

This is the power of getting specific. Every brand – EVERY brand – can be the owner of a very specific #1 claim.

But does anyone care?

At the top of this story, I said a USP is comprised of three questions: What does my brand do better than any other brand in the world? Who does that matter to? Why? 

Today, I’ve demonstrated how you can answer the first question.

However, simply being the best isn’t enough. If it were, everyone would worship jazz musicians. And they don’t.

You need to be the best at something people want. And you have to understand why they love that unique attribute.

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