The Unique Selling Proposition or USP is a fact about your business or company that separates and distinguishes it from the competition. It is something that none of your competition can claim, something that is specifically unique to you. The USP is not your brand, nor your tagline although both of those things can flow from a solid understanding of your USP.
For example, what is Red Bull’s USP? Did you say “Red Bull Gives you Wings?” because you would be wrong. That’s Red Bull’s tag line. You need to try and think what makes them different from all of the other energy drinks out there like Monster, NOS, Amp, Rockstar, 5-hour-energy etc. Why does Red Bull still have a leading market share in its industry? Are the ingredients any different? No. Is it cheaper than its competition? Not particularly. Does it give more energy than the other drinks? No. Does it have a different market? No, that’s not quite it either. All Red Bull did to separate itself from its competition was to be first. (Or at least the first notable energy drink on the market). It cemented its brand in the hearts of consumers so completely that by the time alternative brands started to pop up, Red Bull was a cultural phenomenon.
Ok so not everyone can be first, or a cultural phenomenon. So how can you differentiate yourself if you can’t solidify your place in the market ahead of your competition? Well you can choose to do one thing really, really well (Gillette) or narrow your target audience until you have a segment or niche market that you can be number one in (Rimroller). You can distinguish yourself on price (President’s Choice) or quality as long as it is something that only you can claim.
What is WestJet’s unique selling proposition? A lot of people would say that what makes it unique is that its employees have ownership in the company. And while this is true, it is hardly unique. Many companies offer stock and ownership opportunities to its employees. After all, it’s a good way to motivate the workforce. WestJetters do seem happy with the arrangement. What makes WestJet truly unique however, is its choice to only use only one series of airplane—The Boeing 737 Family—on all of its flights. By having only one type of airplane, WestJet only has to train people to fix one type of plane, using parts that it was able to buy in bulk instead of having to pick and choose each part to buy as it broke. This choice, along with its fuel-hedging strategies allowed WestJet to create a cost-effective airline that was more efficient than its competition. To the customer this choice means everyone is treated equally. There are no better or worse seats, better or worse prices, or better or worse airplanes. It brands itself as the airline for everyone.
Your USP can also change over time. As your industry grows and changes, sometimes shifts are necessary in order to remain competitive. Apple is extremely good at this. In Apple’s earlier years, the USP could be argued to be everything from “Not Microsoft” to “having a unique (at the time) all-in-one-computer design”. Some might argue “ease of use” is its current USP, but that’s more branding than anything else. Now the USP is price maintenance (or why Apple never goes on sale) matched with Planned Obsolescence (Or why there is always a better product moments after you bought the last one). These choices somehow make Apple products more attractive rather than less. Consumers seem to have an insatiable appetite for Apple’s products almost because of its constant upgrading and high (luxurious) price.
Do you know what your company’s USP is? It is imperative to know what separates you from your competition. A solid understanding of your USP can lead you to make more educated —and profitable—decisions about where you will position your company in the market, and how you will brand your company for the best effect.
Have any good USP stories to share? Have questions? Disagree with me? Let me know in the comments below or contact me for a free consultation. Want more content like this delivered straight to your inbox every week? Subscribe!