Part of the reason USPs have become such a hot topic is because it’s becoming more difficult to distinguish yourself from the competition. Back in the 1940s when Rosser Reeves, the man who came up with the term "Unique Selling Proposition," worked in advertising, it was much easier to be the only product offering specific benefits. Think Wonder Bread, M&Ms, Certs, Colgate, and Rolaids; Reeves created USP lines for each of these. (Check the bottom of this page to see if you remember them.)
Basically, positioning is the essence of your business. It’s everything your business stands for—its purpose—and why it exists. It’s your business’ products, services, and everything else you’re involved in, wrapped up in one package. This is conveyed in a number of ways: visually, through the consistent use of logos, fonts, and colors; verbally, through selling text and taglines; and professionally, through an experience or with a reputation—think Harley-Davidson.
Now, everyone in the ad business is trying to gain control of our minds, because share of mind is directly proportional to share of market. Hey, this is a media society! And your own message has to find a place in your prospects’ already-crammed brains. Determining your product’s USP is trickier and more important than before. So the simpler your message is and the more your prospects hear it, the better it’s going to be for you. So let’s put on the thinking cap, shall we? What unique advantage can you offer that your competitors are not offering? Mind you, it’s not necessarily that they can’t do it; it’s just that they’re not saying anything about it.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. The Avis story is a classic positioning coup. Back in the early 1960s, Hertz was, far and away, the largest car rental business in the United States. It was so big that no one would ever believe Avis if it tried to claim that its company was really the biggest and the best. So Avis repositioned itself with one of the classic ad slogans of all time: "We’re number two, we try harder."
Guess what? WhenAvis started that campaign, it was really only the fifth-largest car renter. There were four other car rental companies bigger than Avis, including Hertz. So Avis used its USP—claiming the No. 2 spot—not only to create a memorable advertising campaign but also to effectively leapfrog right over the other companies in spots No. 2 through 5.
Just like Avis, you also need a unique selling position. Here’s some good news: Most video businesses and independent videographers have never articulated their USPs. So here’s your chance to define or to redefine your unique selling position in order to distinguish your video business from the rest of the pack and give people a real reason to patronize you.
So what are you offering that your competitors are not?
Once you decide what it is, turn it into a USP, and then use it in every one of your marketing materials—on your letterhead, business cards, website, email signature, and your ad infinitum. It takes a lot of blood and sweat to do it, but the payoff is that you’ll be remembered at that very crucial moment when your prospect is ready to buy.
Now ... what are the greatest advantages or benefits that you can communicate that will make you different from your competitors? For instance, producer Duane Weed uses "Video Means Business" as his USP. I see it on his letterhead, his demo discs, his business cards, brochures, ads and his newsletters. I know that at Duane’s company, "Video Means Business"—and if I want some more business, I’d better give Duane a call!
How about you? Do you save people time or money? Do you make people money? Are you more convenient? Do you offer free pickup and delivery? Do you offer better, faster service? Do you guarantee the highest quality? Or do you guarantee the lowest price? Do you possess technology that allows you to respond faster and cheaper to your customer’s needs and wants?
Here are some USPs that you’re probably familiar with. These may help jump start your own discovery process:
- Paine Webber makes you more money.
- Volvo is more durable.
- BMW is sportier.
- Mercedes means status and safety.
- Motel 7 is homey and cheap.
- Domino’s Pizza is faster.
- 7-11 offers 24-hour convenience.
- Hallmark means love.
What’s your promotable edge? What do your video products or services do better, cheaper, or faster than anyone else’s? Once you’ve determined what makes you "the best choice," run with it.
But you’d better move quickly because your head start only lasts until the end of this column. As Don Lawler of TMTV Productions says (and this is a great USP), "Life! Camera! Action!"
Classic USP Answers:
- Wonder Bread: Helps build strong bodies in eight ways.
- M&Ms: Melt in your mouth, not in your hands.
- Certs: Breath mints with a magic drop of Retsyn.
- Colgate: Cleans your breath, while it cleans your teeth.
- Rolaids: How do you spell relief? R-O-L-A-I-D-S.
Steve Yankee (syankee at opinmarketing.com) has more than 35 years of vieo production and marketing experience and is the founder of The Video Business Advisor in East Lansing, Michigan.