Is It Smart to Sue a Competitor?
In 1948, the N.W. Ayer agency came up with a terrific unique selling proposition (USP) for DeBeers, the South African diamond mining behemoth: "A diamond is forever."
Sixty-five years later, this USP is on the DeBeers website, still imparting its message of strength and permanence.
Rosser Reeves and the Unique Selling Proposition
The USP was first articulated by Rosser Reeves (1910-1984). A great copywriter, vice president and later chairman of the board of Ted Bates and Company, Reeves was the author of "The Reality of Advertising" (1961, now out of print).
On his invaluable website, HardToFindSeminars.com, Michael Senoff describes Reeves' concept of the unique selling proposition. He defines a USP has having three parts:
- Each ad must make a proposition—"Buy this product and you get these benefits."
- The proposition must be unique—something your competitors do not, cannot or will not offer.
- The proposition must sell—it must be something prospects really want; it pulls them over to your product.
In essence, a Unique Selling Proposition briefly and clearly explains a single quality about your product enabling it to stand out against the competition.
For his client, M&M’s® candies, Rosser Reeves came up with: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”
Other memorable USPs:
- "BAGS FLY FREE." —Southwest Airlines (GSD&M, 2010)
- "We try harder." —Avis (Doyle, Dane Bernbach, 1983)
- "99 and 44/100% pure." —Ivory soap (Procter & Gamble, 1892)
- "Look sharp, feel sharp." —Gillette (BBDO, 1940s)
- "The pause that refreshes." —Coca-Cola (D'Arcy Co., 1929)
- "Tastes great, less filling." —Miller Lite Beer (McCann-Erickson, 1974)
- "Does she ... or doesn't she?" —Clairol (Foote, Cone & Belding, 1957)
- "Mmm mmm good." —Campbell Soup (BBDO, 1930s)
- "When it rains it pours." —Morton salt (N.W. Ayer & Son, 1912)
- "We'll leave the light on for you." —Motel 6 (Richards Group 1988)
- "The skin you love to touch." —Woodbbury soap, (J. Walter Thompson Co. 1911)
- "Breakfast of Champions." —Wheaties, (Blackett-Sample-Hummert, 1930s)
The legendary 20th century copywriter Claude Hopkins wrote, "Writing headlines is one of the greatest journalist arts."