This article will cover:
- What a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is, and what it isn’t
- How to develop your USP without necessarily having a groundbreaking product
- USP examples in marketing that used clever positioning to differentiate from competitors
- Clever techniques to make your USP original and enticing
- The psychology behind purchase decisions
What Is A USP?
USP stands for ‘unique selling proposition’ or ‘unique selling point’.
Your USP is one unique reason your product or service is positively different to your competition and benefits your consumers better than anything else on the market.
It’s also the fundamental starting point for all your sales, trade marketing and consumer marketing efforts, so you have to execute it with passion and precision.
What A USP Isn’t
Before you start creating your product USP, it’s important to understand that your USP isn’t your slogan.
Your slogan may reflect your USP, but the two are different.
McDonald’s slogan is, ‘I’m loving it’. But its USP is that it sells quality, 100-percent beef burgers with excellent, quick service.
Your USP shouldn’t contain any general benefits that are standard within your industry.
For example, ‘We sell online.’
Download our product USP checklist to build your USP step-by-step and ensure you've got all bases covered.
How To Create Your Unique Selling Proposition
Having the right USP can differentiate your product from your competitors' and make it an attractive prospect for retailers.
The following examples include products that weren’t necessarily new or innovative — but rather cleverly positioned themselves by marketing their product in a way others weren’t.
Here are 5 USP examples of companies that totally nailed it.
1. Analyse Your Competitors' USP And Differentiate Yourself (Example: Fever-Tree)
The first step is to understand your market and competition.
What are your competitor products’ unique selling propositions?
Next, how can you differentiate your product from your competitors'?
A superb USP example is Fever-Tree tonic water.
With Schweppes dominating the market of mixer drinks for adults, the founders of Fever-Tree identified a gap in the market.
Established in 2004, Fever-Tree’s unique selling proposition is that it produces ‘premium tonic water’.
At a time when everybody was focusing on the quality of the gin rather than the tonic, it strongly conveyed its USP in its marketing messaging, confidently stating:
‘If 3/4 of your Gin & Tonic is the tonic, make sure you use the best.’
The brand highlights exotic ingredients such as ‘Rwandan bitter orange oil’ and ‘natural quinine’.
Across the UK and Europe, G&T drinkers were keen to sample such an indulgence.
The company pulled in a handsome reported revenue of £170.2m in 2017.
Well done Fever-Tree. The drinks are on you.
Key Takeaway: When formulating your product USP, look for a positioning niche and highlight the product's exclusivity.
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2. Know Your Audience (Example: GoPro)
GoPro is a juggernaut in the world of portable digital cameras, generating well over $1bn in revenue last year alone.
But that hasn’t always been the case. Back at the beginning of the 21st century there were various portable camera options available — before GoPro burst onto the scene and rapidly dominated the market.
It knew its buyer persona — a young, thrill-seeking adventurer with outdoor hobbies and a strong preference for social media (YouTube, Facebook and Vine).
In order to target its buyer persona, its USP was simple:
A portable camera that’s small, easy to use and robust.
The advertising that followed was a showstopper: young thrill-seekers having incredible adventure experiences — and creating their own high-quality, compelling content all filmed on a GoPro!
It was a content marketer’s dream, effectively marketing itself.
Key Takeaway: Create a detailed buyer persona and formulate a USP that both talks to them and guides your advertising efforts.
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3. Look At Your Competitors’ Weaknesses (Example: Milk Duds)
Let’s head across the pond to the United States to take a look at a USP example from one of its iconic candy brands, Milk Duds.
Milk Duds are small pebbles of caramel with a chocolate coating.
The brand had a reputation as a ‘movie’ candy for teenagers, but wanted to re-position itself to target younger candy enthusiasts.
However, in a market strongly saturated with chocolate bar giants such as Hershey's, Nestle, Reese's, Milky Way and Snickers, how could Milk Duds ever compete?
As chocolate bar brands cut costs by continuing to make their products smaller, disillusioned 10-year-olds yearned for something more substantial.
Rather than trying to stand out among the confectionery behemoths, Milk Duds cleverly took the current chocolate bar brands’ weaknesses and capitalised on them…
…by highlighting how small chocolate bars were, and how little time it took to eat them.
Milk Duds started pumping money into television marketing, positioning its USP as ‘long-lasting candy’.
So did it work?
Young candy fans flocked to the brand, excited by the prospect of slowly savouring such rich, chocolatey delights, rather than wolfing chocolate bars down in a few mouthfuls
In the following months the company sold more Milk Duds than it had in its history and solidified the brand as one of our top USP examples.
Ahhh, the sweet taste of success.
Key Takeaway: When creating your product USP, highlight your strengths against your competitors' weaknesses. Promote something that rival products aren't.
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4. Don’t Speak To The Masses (Example: Nerd Fitness)
This one isn't strictly a product, but it perfectly shows how your USP can be its exclusivity for a niche audience.
If you’re launching a new product in a saturated market, chances are there are going to be market leaders who appeal to a wide range of people.
Think McDonalds, LEGO, Hoover, Coca Cola and Fairy Liquid.
All of the above were either the first to do what they do, or completely dominate the market.
Here’s the deal:
In order to compete in a market with the big boys you need to drill down on your audience.
For example, there are plenty of fitness websites. We've surely seen it all before.
Enter Nerd Fitness to provide an original alternative.
You guessed it.
‘A fitness website for nerds and average Joes. Helping you lose weight, get stronger and live better.’
Offering geeks an opportunity to ‘level up your life’, Nerd Fitness targets a strong niche that you wouldn’t normally associate inside the fitness market.
It’s both bold and refreshing, blending real-life challenges with gamification. As they put it: "Turn everyday life into a game you look forward to playing."
The product enables nerds to build a character, earn points for completing fitness challenges and even do boss levels.
Key Takeaway: In saturated markets, think of your target audience, and go even more niche (providing there’s still a sizeable market). Then, build your USP around catering for them.
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5. Create A Purpose (Example: TOMS)
Your product’s USP doesn’t have to be based on its features and benefits.
As Jenniferman Zimmerman quite rightly points out on TheDrum.com, in a world where products can be developed at a rapid pace and product parity reigns supreme, having a strong brand purpose can act as a way of differentiating your product.
Think Gillette's 'The Best Men Can Be' or Nike's 'Dream Crazy'. Neither reference the product directly but have a higher purpose that inspires.
One of the first major examples of brand purpose done right was TOMS.
While it creates simple, comfortable shoes, that’s not its USP — there are plenty of shoe brands on the market that create simple, comfortable shoes.
Its USP is that it takes an ethical approach: With every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS will give a new pair to a child in need.
This form of storytelling marketing has proven to be popular with millennials and the ‘conscious consumer’.
As Simon Sinek describes, it’s aligned with what's known as ‘The Golden Circle’, which highlights that our purchase decisions are driven firstly by emotion and later rationalised by logic.
Sinek explains that if marketers start with ‘why’, i.e. a USP that resonates with your consumer on an emotional level, this triggers the limbic portion of the brain.
The limbic system is responsible for emotion, and drives a decision more than rationality.
The beauty of TOMS is it used this modern form of marketing slap bang in the middle of a recession, when other companies were prioritising ‘cost’ over ‘ethics’ as the primary driver for purchase decisions.
Looks like nice brands don’t always finish last.
Key Takeaway: If your product isn't necessarily new or innovative, create your USP by showing people how purchasing your product will benefit a charity or wider social cause.
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Determining your USP is a starting point in the long journey of getting your product ranged in retail.
Knowing how to effectively market a product so it stands out from the crowd is a challenge for trade marketers.
Trade marketing is going through some major changes, both culturally and technologically. And with retail becoming more and more competitive, trade marketers must adapt or be left behind.
Are you up to speed?
Why not download our Ultimate Guide To Trade Marketing?
It features crucial info from our trade marketing experts on:
- Creating the perfect product proposition to secure sell-in
- Clever tactics to get your product ranged
- Traditional and online trade marketing techniques to increase your product sales