Can you be truly unique?

This is one I hear all the time. What should my company do to be unique? Or what’s my USP? Unique Selling Point is probably one of the most overused terms in marketing and brand development. The problem with unique selling points is that they don’t stay unique for very long. A company can labour for ages putting together a proposition and a product which is unique, but once it hits the shelves or is in public domain it won’t stay unique for long. That’s if it is any good in the first place. Why? Because your competition will simply rip it.

The trouble I have about USP’s from a brand development point of view is that it only engages the functional aspect of a proposition i.e. what is that we do, and how that is better than everyone else. This USP is not the actual basis for a good brand.

Even unique attributes can be ripped off

A functional reason to buy a product or service is very easy to copy. Functional reasoning is normally a bad way to sell the appeal of any business because there will always be someone out there who is faster, cheaper, and more convenient than you are.

Just take a look at the smartphones marketplace or the tablet touch screen arena. Both were kickstarted by Apple and now anyone from HP to Samsung are creating similar products, and some of those are arguably functionally better. But Apple has more appeal than all of them because it bases its brand on how it makes you feel. Owning an Apple product gives the user a certain something that you just can’t put your finger on. Who cares if the Samsung Galaxy is better?

It’s all about being distinguished

When looking at brand development, my mantra is that it’s not about being unique it’s about being distinguished. You can sell the same product or service as the man next door but because your business is distinguished, it will look attractive, be meaningful, engaging and make people feel like they really want it.

The real way to think about USP’s is not in what you do but the way you do it. This is the culture, the ethos, the aura that surrounds the brand. While products and especially services are easy to copy, the mood and feeling a brand generates is hard to clone. Take Innocent Smoothies, if you took the product out of the box and stuck it in a plain container, would you want it as much? Could we even tell the difference between an average smoothie or a great one? The image and impression brand makes have the biggest effect on our purchasing decisions. If you can create a brand that has a unique set of values, which makes people feel a certain way about your business then you have got it right and your brand will offer you protection from the competition.