Every marketer should know Rosser Reeves. He was a highly successful advertising executive and the originator of the Unique Selling Proposition (also known as the Unique Selling Point or USP). In his 1961 best-seller Reality In Advertising, Rosser defined his industry-changing concept in three parts:
1. Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer. Not just words, not just product puffery, not just show-window advertising. Each advertisement must say to each reader: “Buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit.”
2. The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot, or does not, offer. It must be unique—either a uniqueness of the brand or a claim not otherwise made in that particular field of advertising.
3. The proposition must be so strong that it can move the mass millions, i.e., pull over new customers to your product.
Rosser’s influence continues to thrive and can be found in AMC’s hit television show Mad Men as he is the model for the professional accomplishments of the series’ protagonist, Don Draper.
“No, sir, I’m not saying that charming, witty and warm ad copy won’t sell. I’m just saying I’ve seen thousands of charming, witty campaigns that didn’t sell.” ~ Rosser Reeves (1910 – 1984)
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October 28, 2010 at 9:41 am
Is Rosser Reeves’ USP idea still relevant? Many advertising briefs are for products and services that don’t have a USP. That leaves it to the creative department to invent one. For example, Heineken’s famous UK slogan “Refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach” – an outrageous claim that most people accept is just a joke, but which helped sell the brand.
What’s your view? What do you do when you haven’t got a USP to work with?
October 28, 2010 at 12:35 pm
Thanks for your thoughts Dean. With the increase of competition and marketing noise the concept of the USP is more relevant today than it was in 1961.
If there is not a USP it’s because you are missing it. Anything can be differentiated…water, chicken, vodka etc. Ideally the USP is an obvious part of the product.
Gary Gray, Toronto
March 17, 2013 at 8:49 am
You have overlooked one of the alternatives which is -Pre-empting the Truth.
Best example is Shell Gas went to the “Mileage” USP. They took the mileage ingredient
– a part of all gasolines – and called it “Platformate”. One of the most brilliant TV demonstrations ever: They put a car on a railway track, put in a specific amount of gas WITHOUT Platformate let the car run until it ran out of gas. They marked the spot with a large paper banner then took the car back to the starting point, added the same amount of gas WITH Platformate and the car smashed through the banner and kept on running. Pre-empting the truth! (Would we get away with it today? Don’t think so, but the concept MUST be in your list of considerations.) I am doing a Branding paper for Ballet Jorgen Canada. There is no way that the individual parts make them unique or have a USP, however, what I call “Clump Branding” – the total of the parts – make the Brand and make them #1 in Canada.
Sometimes the USP is so obvious thousands overlook it or feel it so obvious they won’t use it: I created the Milk Moustache Campaign that is now running around the world. Show it and a smile and you’ve a said it all! In the US they used celebrities, we used young, healthy teens. It ran on Mall posters and TV.
Now being used in India.
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