When is a USP not a USP?

Now that’s a question!

A USP for those that are new to all this marketing malarkey is a business’s Unique Selling Point/Proposition. It’s what a business promotes to attract clients to their business rather than to another. The problem is the word, ‘Unique”. There are very few things that nowadays are considered unique and so rather than creating something new, the temptation is to resort to, and here’s another marketing term, puffery.

What is puffery? I hear you ask. It can be best described thus: there were three barbers who set up business in the same street and were therefore after the same clientele. The first barber put a sign up in the window that said ‘The best barber in the country!.’ The second was a bit aggrieved at this and put up a sign in his window that said, ‘The best barber in the world!” The third, not wanting to be outdone by the competition put up a sign in his window that simply said, ‘The best barber in this street.’

Puffery is about bigging yourself up. That doesn’t make you unique, it just means that you’re setting yourself up to be knocked down. The secret to being unique is to invent your own category to be unique in.

Let’s turn the clock back half a century and consider the vacuum cleaner. Back then Hoover dominated the market. A brand that was so strong that the name became a verb for vacuuming. Then in 1993 along came a smart-Alec called James Dyson who decided he was going to shake things up a bit. Instead of going head-to-head with Hoover in a very competitive market, he invented a new category. This was no ordinary vacuum cleaner, this was a vacuum cleaner that didn’t require a bag.

A reality check here. It was still a vacuum cleaner. Like the Hoover, all it did was collect dust from the floor.

But, the bagless vacuum cleaner had arrived with a benefit. As it didn’t have a bag, it didn’t lose suction.

Within a decade, the bagless vacuum cleaner, had become dominant and people up and down the country were hoovering there carpets with a Dyson.

So when considering the USP for you business, think about what small changes and tweaks you could make to set your business apart. Because going head-to-head and relying on puffery… sucks!