Use Your Big Stick!

Your unique selling proposition (USP) — the one thing sets your brand apart.

I am fond of President Theodore Roosevelt’s Big Stick Ideology, “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.” It works in life and in business. In marketing, your unique selling proposition (USP) is your Big Stick. Be bold. Dare your competitors to tread on your USP. Guard it with messaging, products and personnel. Defend it with constant improvement and innovation.

Far too often, marketers are so intensely driven to increase sales, they fear focusing on one benefit, and instead, throw every product or service feature at prospective customers in hopes that something will work. (I hypothesize this happens when too many hands are finessing the creative.)

The end result is a muddled message that confuses, rather than clarifies the unique selling proposition (USP) of the product or service being marketed. The resulting lack of clarity, vis-a-vis multiple messages, has the opposite result of driving customers away.

Can you get a visual on what your experience would be at this automotive dealership?

“We have the best selection, fastest service, no-haggle pricing, the most locations, caring staff, a beautiful showroom with snacks and coffee, and fun for the kids…”

This could be an advertisement for McDonald’s. Even so, does it elicit a craving for hamburgers, or inspire you to shop for a car?

Customers and prospects don’t need or want to be overwhelmed by messaging from every direction about every wonderful thing you have to offer them. You must develop a single, simple, creative and compelling message that will break through the noise — based on a unique selling proposition that sets your brand apart from competitive brands.

How to identify and actively market your unique selling proposition

  1. Identify your unique selling proposition (USP) – what do you do BETTER than the competition (largest selection, best price, best customer service, made in America, etc.) Select ONE, and then infuse that USP into every message. Consider this also in developing your company tagline.
  2. But wait, don’t just say “best whatever.” You must translate that into a customer benefit, such as time saving, money saving, enjoyment. For example, will your product will make customers feel younger, smarter, healthier or be more successful?
  3. Focus on those feelings, those desires or those needs, when crafting the creative brief.
  4. Finally, let the creative team be creative. No one was ever bored into making a purchase, but make sure the final result conveys your USP in a creative manner to capture the “hearts and minds” of your target audience. (Award-winning creative work doesn’t always translate into award-winning sales figures.)

Conveying one creative message will capture attention and help build your brand in the mind of the customer. Let’s revise our dealership message to something like:

“We will put you in the driver’s seat” 

Now, you’ve got my attention.


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