Monday, November 29, 2010

Unique Selling Point or Unique Buying Point?

Aside from not to mix drinks, my stint in advertising taught me one important thing - the USP (Unique Selling Proposition/Point). Whatever we did - from the moment we received briefs to brainstorming ideas - it seems people were obsessed over on this notion. The idea, it seemed, was that if your USP was strong enough, and if you communicated it well enough to your audience, you were bound to strike gold.

And for a while, it made sense; after all, why should someone buy your shampoo over another? Why yours different, special, unique? What did it have to offer? What was its Unique Selling Point?

But recently, it dawned upon me that the USP focuses too much on the seller, and what they're selling. After all, isn't any product, or service about the buyer – the customer? Don't get me wrong, I think the 'unique' part in USP is critical. But the 'Selling' seems outdated, and perhaps it's time to update the USP. Hence the UBP (Unique Buying Proposition).

Now, UBP comes by different names, CVP (Customer Value Proposition) for example essentially means the same thing. But why then, do advertising/marketing agencies keep pushing this notion of USP? In fact, in many creative briefs, there was a section to specifically state the USP (and ensure it fit within a sentence, otherwise it was far too complex for target audiences).

Of course, some USPs are inherently UBPs – for example, Dominos' “Get fresh pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less - or it's free” is a benefit (hello, free pizza), but for some, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands” (M&Ms), the benefits are less clear. And I'd argue that USPs that communicate a true benefit speak more to audiences.

I personally think using the UBP is superior to USP if not only for that fact that it forces you to think differently. You create different associations when you go from a 'selling' mode to a 'buying' one. No longer do you think “this product is unique”, but rather, “people need this because _____”.

Just my 2 cents worth.