Your brand image is an emotional construct. Emotion is ALMOST always more powerful in swaying people than reason, but people like to be able to rationalise their choices. This is where, in addition to the ‘reason-why’ approach, awareness of another advertising theory – the USP – can be helpful.

The USP (or unique selling proposition), formula was developed by Rosser Reeves, an ex-copywriter who became head of the Ted Bates agency in New York. He wrote an excellent book, largely dealing with this theory but also covering other aspects of advertising, called Reality in Advertising.

To establish your USP, you compare your product or service with your competitor’s. Then you determine one feature you have which no one else can offer. This is your unique selling proposition. It is this which you must promote single-mindedly.

Here are some typical USPs:

‘Cleans your breath while it cleans your teeth.’
Colgate toothpaste

‘The too good to hurry mint.’
Murraymints

‘There’s more for your life at Sears.’
Sears Roebuck

‘It ain’t fancy but it’s good.’
Horn & Hardart

‘The mint with the hole.’
Polo Mints

‘It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken.’
Perdue Chicken

One problem with the USP is that you sometimes have to rely upon some pretty trivial points of difference to arrive at your proposition – as you can see from the list above. For simple products a good USP may often supply a successful selling idea, it is hard to arrive at one for complex services such as American Express or the Customers’ Association. Sometimes the secret is to say what others can say, but say it more persuasively or more fully.

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