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Unique selling proposition

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In marketing, the unique selling proposition (USP), also called the unique selling point, or the unique value proposition (UVP) in the business model canvas, is the marketing strategy of informing customers about how one's own brand or product is superior to its competitors (in addition to its other values).[1]

It was used in successful advertising campaigns of the early 1940s. The term was coined by television advertising pioneer Rosser Reeves of Ted Bates & Company. Theodore Levitt, a professor at Harvard Business School, suggested that, "Differentiation is one of the most important strategic and tactical activities in which companies must constantly engage."[2] The term has been extended to cover one's "personal brand".[3]


A unique selling proposition (USP) refers to the unique benefit exhibited by a company, service, product or brand that enables it to stand out from competitors.[4] The unique selling proposition must be a feature that highlights product benefits that are meaningful to consumers.[5] USP focuses on explicit claims of uniqueness involving an objectively verifiable product attribute or benefit-in-use.[6]

  1. Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer—not just words, product puffery, or show-window advertising. Each advertisement must say to each reader: "Buy this product, for this specific benefit."
  2. The proposition must be one the competition cannot or does not offer. It must be unique—either in the brand or a claim, the rest of that particular advertising area does not make.
  3. The proposition must be strong enough to move the masses, i.e., attract new customers as well as potential customers.


The USP concept is one of the eight broad approaches to creative executions in advertising.[7][8][9] The USP approach can be effective where high levels of technological innovation characterise a product category.[7] A clear USP helps consumers to understand differences - even non-existent differences[10] - between brand offerings in a category, and may also help consumers to form a positive attitude towards a brand and may ultimately contribute to increased levels of brand recall.[11]

In order to determine an appropriate USP for any given brand, marketers must undertake extensive research of the category as well as of consumers.[citation needed] It is important to be able to locate a space in the market, ensure that the feature is something that is unique, and also something that is valued by potential customers.[citation needed] Sellers also need to try selling a brand to themselves; this is so they know they are passionate about a product and confident it can succeed.[citation needed] The seller needs a key point to use when trying to sell their product or service,[citation needed] and coming up with it prior to selling will benefit.[citation needed] Having a point of difference to stand out is a major benefit in markets; customers will be drawn to a business if it offers something no one else has.[citation needed] Whether differences are subtle or blatant, they can be the driving force that ensures the end-consumer makes the desired decision in choosing one product over the competition.[citation needed]

In markets which contain many similar products, using a USP is one campaign method of differentiating the product from the competition. Products or services without differentiation risk the consumer seeing them as commodities and fungible, thus lowering price potential. Thus having a unique selling point is essential to have a successful business that can handle current competition, as well as possible future comers in similar markets.[citation needed]

The desktop personal-computer market provides one example with many manufacturers and the potential for new manufacturers at any time. Apple used the slogan "Beauty outside, Beast inside"[12] for its Mac Pro campaign to differentiate its product as "beautiful" compared with any other desktop computer. Buyers of this product were willing to pay a premium price, compared with technically similar desktop computers.[citation needed] Apple differentiates itself with a focus on aesthetics and cutting-edge technologies. Wal-Mart's "Save money, live better" (Waiz, 2013).[13][sentence fragment] Wal-Mart is concerned with being the cheapest department store and with reminding customers that it's not how much one spends on a product that matters. This USP rests on strong, direct and concise messaging that gives consumers a clear picture of exactly what value they will receive for choosing a given brand or product. Something so simple that can attract customers like that and show the unique selling proposition of the business is what people look for.[4][need quotation to verify] Marketing strategies are very important for different companies to establish their identity and increase market share.[citation needed]

A good USP should target a specific audience. Furthermore, a USP should not only be unique, but also keep its promises in order to prove trustworthy.[14]


The following are examples of Unique Selling Propositions. What is commonly considered a slogan is enhanced with a differentiating benefit of the product or service.[15] Typically, the uniqueness is delivered by a unique process, ingredient, or system that produces the benefit described.[citation needed]

  • Anacin "Fast, incredibly fast relief." In 1952, Rosser Reeves created a TV commercial that capitalized on Anacin's "special ingredient", caffeine, by suggesting limitations of other aspirin and repeating, three times, the differentiation proposition: fast.[16]
  • M&M's: "Melts in your mouth, not in your hand." 1954[17] M&Ms use a patented hard sugar coating that keeps chocolate from melting in one's hands, thus a chocolate soldiers could carry, compared to other brands.[citation needed]
  • Head & Shoulders: "Clinically proven to reduce dandruff." 1961[18] Pyrithione Zinc was found, after 10 years of research, to be an ingredient that was actually effective in eliminating dandruff where other products were not effective. Adding the name "Shoulders" to the product name also indicated that the product eliminated the tell-tale white marks on clothing caused by dandruff flakes falling from the hair.[citation needed]
  • Domino's Pizza: "You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less—or it's free." 1973-1993 "You Got 30 Minutes" 2007-[19] Domino's uses what it calls the "make line" and other systems to make pizzas quickly.[citation needed]
  • FedEx: "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight." 1978–1983. FedEx was the first company to specialize in overnight air freight and first to implement package tracking.[20] This pioneering advantage was made possible by a new system outlined in the founder's 1965 Yale paper.[20]
  • Metropolitan Life: "Get Met. It Pays." 1984[21] Met's newer "Whole Life Policy" was a sales success for the company. The policy offered one-third more coverage, for the same price, and grew in cash value for a bigger "pay out" over time. In advertisements, Met compared buying the policy to buying a home.[22]
  • Southwest Airlines: "We are THE low-fare airline."[23][24][25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hindle, Tim (2008). Guide to Management Ideas and Gurus. London: Profile Books. p. 197. ISBN 9781846681080. Retrieved 28 January 2023.
  2. ^ Levitt, Theodore (1986). The marketing imagination (New, expanded ed.). New York: Free Press. ISBN 0029191807.
  3. ^ Clark, Dorie (March 2011). "Reinventing Your Personal Brand". Harvard Business Review.
  4. ^ a b Entrepreneur. (No Date). Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Retrieved March 29th, 2016, from Entrepreneur: http://www.entrepreneur.com/encyclopedia/unique-selling-proposition-usp
  5. ^ Based on Laskey, H. A., Day, E. and Crask, M.R., "Typology of Main Message Strategies," Journal of Advertising, vol. 18, no. 1, 1989, pp 36–41.
  6. ^ Wang, Liyong; Praet, Carolus L. C. (2016), Verlegh, Peeter; Voorveld, Hilde; Eisend, Martin (eds.), "Message Strategy Typologies: A Review, Integration, and Empirical Validation in China", Advances in Advertising Research (Vol. VI): The Digital, the Classic, the Subtle, and the Alternative, European Advertising Academy, Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien, pp. 201–213, doi:10.1007/978-3-658-10558-7_16, ISBN 978-3-658-10558-7, retrieved 2020-11-13
  7. ^ a b Laskey, H. A., Day, E. and Crask, M.R., "Typology of Main Message Strategies," Journal of Advertising, vol. 18, no. 1, 1989, pp 36–41.
  8. ^ Masterson, R, and Pickton, D,. Marketing: An Introduction Thousand Oaks, California, McGraw-Hill, 2010 pp 288-289
  9. ^ Copley, P. Marketing Communications Management: Analysis, Planning, Implementation, Sage, 2015
  10. ^ "Unique Selling Proposition (USP)". Entrepreneur Europe. Retrieved 2020-03-29. Successful business ownership is not about having a unique product or service; it's about making your product stand out--even in a market filled with similar items.
  11. ^ Reilly, M. and Parkinson, T.L., "Individual and Product Correlates of Evoked Set Size For Consumer Package Goods", in Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 12, Elizabeth C. Hirschman and Moris B. Holbrook (eds), Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research, pp 492-497, Online: http://acrwebsite.org/volumes/6440/volumes/v12/NA-12
  12. ^ Zigu. "Slogan Definition | Marketing Dictionary | MBA Skool-Study.Learn.Share". MBA Skool-Study.Learn.Share. Retrieved 2016-05-19.
  13. ^ Waiz, S. (2013, March 22nd). 40+ Best Advertising Slogans of Modern Brands. Retrieved March 29th, 2016, from Advergize: http://www.advergize.com/advertising/40-best-advertising-slogans-modern-brands/
  14. ^ "USP: more than a slogan". 2020-10-05. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  15. ^ Douglas, Laura Clampitt (December 2000). "Marketing Features Vs. Benefits". Entrepreneur. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  16. ^ Butler (2006). Television Critical Methods and Applications (3rd ed.). Hoboken: Taylor & Francis Ltd. p. 420. ISBN 1410614743.
  17. ^ "The most-liked advertising slogan: M&M's 'Melts in your mouth, not in your hand'". Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-05-11.
  18. ^ "History | Head and Shoulders News l P&G.com". news.headandshoulders.com. Archived from the original on 2016-11-15. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  19. ^ Pizza, Domino's. "Domino's Pizza Builds on Heritage with Launch of 'You Got 30 Minutes'". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved 2016-05-11.
  20. ^ a b "Timeline - About FedEx". About FedEx. Retrieved 2016-05-11.
  21. ^ "Metropolitan Life Insurance Company - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Metropolitan Life Insurance Company". www.referenceforbusiness.com. Retrieved 2016-05-11.
  22. ^ Kiplinger's Personal Finance. Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. 1981-10-01.
  23. ^ Goodwin, Bryan (2011). Simply better : doing what matters most to change the odds for student success. Alexandria, Va.: ASCD. p. 11. ISBN 978-1416612957.
  24. ^ "Effective Internal Marketing Strategies for All Businesses". Fast Company. 2009-10-14. Retrieved 2016-05-11.
  25. ^ Heath, Chip; Heath, Dan (2007-01-02). Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 9781588365965.