Your Unique Selling Proposition

Ah…the Unique Selling Proposition (or USP). Branding starts with goals; all successful brands are aspirational. They ASPIRE to be something.

To begin building your brand, you need to have clearly developed objectives for what you want your company to look like in the next year, five years, and ten years. Goals will give your brand direction—a road map. When you know where you want to go, you can focus your brand in that direction.


Although brands are aspirational, powerful brands are grounded in authenticity and relevance. And all good brands have a unique selling proposition or, as it's sometimes called, a Dominant Selling Idea.

Your success is directly proportional to how well you acknowledge what your customers really want AND how diligently you apply your company’s strengths, values, passions, and vision. When you align what your company does and how you do it with who you are and what makes you distinct or unique, you’ll be successful.

Your USP should be comprised of the company personality, image, core competencies and characteristics. The impressions that you make as well as the words people will use to describe your company to others will help you arrive at the desired brand model.


What are the objectives that you hope to achieve with your brand?

Your unique selling proposition should help you build credibility, have more influence on your market, and motivate customers and clients to purchase from you. If done correctly, your company will be looked at as a leader rather than a follower. A good USP gives any product, service, or organization the benefit of making people believe there is simply no substitute.

It’s not about what percentage of the existing market you can own, rather how large a market your new brand can CREATE because it owns a single word or thought—an attribute—in the mind. The USP can be thought of as your brand essence , your one-thing attribute.

The “one thing” attribute-ownership challenge:Here are a series of words. See if you can fill in the blanks for each for the brand that owns the word. Answers are below:

“Overnight” = ________________

“Thick” (spaghetti sauce) = ________________

“Safety” (automobile) = ________________

“Documents” = ________________

“Low Prices” = ________________

“Driving” (automobile) = ________________

“Flame-broiled” (fast food) = ________________


Remember, a brand is a SINGULAR IDEA—the one thing—that you own in the mind of the customer. That’s the tip of your brand pyramid.


According to Don and Heidi Schultz, “Today, brands must stand for something—something inherently relevant and compelling to the customer. Not something borrowed or stolen from a competitor. Not something that registers just because it jars or violates sensitivities or damages the ear drum. Brands must stand for something and that something must be something that will endure, not just fly high and then crash with a thud.”

“Brand messages must be incredibly short. Incredibly clear. Incredibly easy to understand.”

Here’s an example: Altoids--curiously strong. Make sure your product can back up your value proposition. If Altoids tasted just like Tic-Tacs, for instance, their promise of “curiously strong” would fall short. And Altoids advertising is oftentimes curiously edgy, too. Their marketing and communications are in alignment with their brand.


Answers to the one-word challenge:

“Overnight” = FedEx

“Thick” (spaghetti sauce) = Prego

“Safety” (automobile) = Volvo

“Documents” = Xerox

“Low Prices” = Wal-Mart

“Driving” (automobile) = BMW

“Flame-broiled” (fast food) = Burger King

How To Create Your USP
To create the kind of powerful USP that will cause consumers to notice your product, prefer your product, and pay a premium for it, three criteria are needed:

  • You must make a proposition to the consumer that says, “Buy this product and you will get this specific benefit."

  • The proposition must be one the competition either cannot, or does not, offer.

  • The proposition must be so strong that it can move your target audience to action.


Jack Trout, in his book, Differentiate or Die, asserts that the strongest USPs fall into one of nine categories:

  1. Being first in the marketplace

  2. Owning a specific product attribute

  3. Demonstrating sales, technology, or performance leadership

  4. Drawing upon an impressive product history or heritage

  5. Having a specialized product for a specific target market

  6. Showing that your product is preferred by an influential peer group

  7. Revealing how a product is made / special components or ingredients

  8. Being the newest / most up to date

  9. Being popular, trendy, or “hot”


“Differentiation is one of the most important strategic and tactical activities in which companies must constantly engage.”
–Theodore Levitt, Thinking About Management

Discover your Unique Selling Proposition with the help of our branding resources.