Building your brand: UVP & USP
Updated: Jun 18, 2018
Part 7 in our series on building your small business brand.
If you do a search online, you’ll see that Unique Value Proposition, otherwise known as UVP, and Unique Sales Proposition, also known as USP, are often used interchangeably. But I actually see them as distinctly different and serving different functions.
Your brand’s unique value proposition summarizes the value or benefit your brand offers in one short phrase. Its unique sales proposition, on the other hand, reflects in one short phrase how your brand will help your customers.
A brand may have several USPs based on its offer or products, but it should have only one UVP that it shouldn’t need to change it very often.
Why it’s essential
Your brand’s UVP and USP are an extension of its core story, its core offer, its core emotional benefit and it’s positioning. Together, they capture the essence of your brand in just a few memorable and evocative words.
One way to think of it is that your UVP reflects the feeling your targets associate with your brand, while your USP is the offer that attracts your customers.
What it covers
This part covers your brand UVP, your brand’s USPs, your brand’s tagline and feature-related USPs.
How you’ll use it
Your UVP will either be or serve as the basis for your brand’s tagline, whereas your USP will either be or serve as the basis for your main marketing or advertising headline.
How you’ll create it
Creating a UVP may seem easy. After all, it’s just a few short words, right?
But you’re trying to pack a lot into those few words. Often, the fewer the words, the harder it is to come up with the right ones.
Your UVP communicates the single most important reason why your brand is the best option for your target. To do this, it should capture attention, be easy to understand, should differentiate you and have an emotional impact on your target to nudge them towards choosing you over the competition.
To give you an idea of what a UVP is, here are some famous examples.
Just do it
We try harder
Finger Lickin’ Good
The King of Beers
The Ultimate Driving Machine
Because I’m worth it
Have it your way
The quicker picker-upper
The tightest ship in the shipping business
Don’t leave home without it
Reach out and touch someone
We’re number two. We try harder.
For everything else, there’s MasterCard
These are pretty iconic, but there’s no reason you can’t come up with your own UVP. Like most things, it’ll just take time and effort.
There are endless ways you can go about the process of creating your UVP – and some UVPs just hit you like a bolt of lightning out of the blue – but here’s one process you can use.
Start by looking at the positioning statement you wrote at the start of the previous lecture. Think about that statement in terms of your core vision. Are they in line with each other?
If not, rewrite your positioning statement in line with your vision.
Next, look at the statement in the context the emotions you’ve associated with your brand, the core emotional problem your brand solves and the core benefit it offers and its core target. Do any of these things change your positioning statement? If so, rewrite it so the statement becomes more emotionally charged. But remember not to exaggerate any claims.
Once you’ve got your emotionally-charged statement, look at the positioning strategy you chose. Does it match your new, emotionally-charged positioning statement? If not, rewrite the statement in line with your selected strategy.
At this point, don’t worry about packing it all down to a short phrase. Just write it out as a short paragraph that packs in everything you want to say. Rework the paragraph as many times as you need until it’s as tight as it can be, always keeping in mind the four most important things to include:
Problem you’re solving
For whom you’re solving it
How you’re solving it
The benefits you’re offering
Once you have your UVP paragraph as tight as it can be, comes the really hard part.
You need condense it all down to just four or five simple, emotionally-stirring words that have a nice rhythm to them.
Consult a thesaurus, pop culture references, a database of idioms, song lyrics – whatever.
Write down every idea you have, whether good or bad. Don’t discriminate.
Once you have a long list, take a break from it for a while, then return to it and cross out the ones you don’t like. Then let the rest sit for a while.
Once you’ve had a chance to rest your mind, repeat the process with an entirely new list without looking at the first one. Do this as often is you’re able to think of new directions, always crossing off the ones you don’t like.
Finally, compile your lists into one list and narrow that one down until you have just a few that you like.
Now, test those with people you know. Friends. Family. Colleges. Type them out in different fonts next to your company’s name. Mock up a website banner with your UVP as a headline. Match it to images from your mood board. Or else sources more images and match them to your UVP.
When words and image match, you know you’re on to something.
Slowly, you’ll find yourself gravitating towards one, two or three that are most true to your brand and your positioning. After a time, one of those will just keep coming through as the most resonant. That’ll be your UVP!
But don’t be surprised if, after all this – after you’ve settled on your UVP that you think is perfect, after some months have passed and you’ve rewritten your LinkedIn page and come up with your elevator speech and told people about your brand and you’ve started building your website – if suddenly, out of the blue, a completely different UVP comes to mind that you instantly know is 100% authentic to your brand and says everything you want it to say.
That’s what happened to me.
Mongrel’s UVP went from “Be the brand that people choose” – a UVP that I loved – to “Make Your Mark”, which hit the nail on the head and slammed it into the wood with one blow.
If that happens to you, then you know this new UVP is the right one. But don’t worry, all that work you did won’t have been in vain. That’s just part of the creative process and how you get from there to here.
Your brand’s USP won’t be any easier to create, even though you can use more words.
Your USP should be a clear statement that explains how your brand or product or service solves a particular pain point, often in practical terms. Basically, it should tell the target why it's better than other products out there. Here are a couple of famous examples:
When it absolutely, positively needs to be there overnight
The milk chocolate that melts in your mouth, not in your hands.
Fresh hot pizza, delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less… or it’s free.
Unlike the UVP, which is all about emotional impact, your USP should focus on the rational reasons for choosing your brand, product or service. The point is to give your target a specific reason to choose your brand.
So, how can we do this?
First, without giving it too much thought, write down in one sentence why someone should buy your product or service. If you can do that and the sentence is rock solid and says everything you want it to say, then you’re done, move on to the next part.
If not, don’t worry, there’s a creative process you can use.
Go back to your offer and look at the practical problems your brand solves. Then look at the possible objections you compiled, particularly the practical ones. Now list their corresponding minimizers. Choose the most compelling problem solved and the most compelling minimizer and build a USP from that. Try a couple of different versions, then put them aside.
Now go back to your perceptual positioning maps and your perceptual positioning diagram. And, of course, your positioning strategy. Again, craft a few versions of your USP based on these, then put them aside.
Next, write some versions based on your ultimate benefits, your core emotional benefit and the benefit hierarchy you created. Now, flip that around and write some scary versions where you focus on the loss hierarchy you created. Then, try a couple where you combine a benefit and a loss.
You should have four or five different lists of options. Choose the best from each list and make a new list from them.
Now, go take a break from this for a while. At least a couple of days. When you’re mind has completely forgotten about this task, return to it and try your hand again at writing one sentence about why customers should choose your brand.
Keep writing it out until you nail it. Take as many breaks as you have to.
Once you have your sentence down, you’ll want to craft it into your USP. Try to keep it under fifteen words, preferably under ten.
At this point, test out your best USP options the same way you tested your UVP. And again, don’t be surprised if the actual USP you end up using is the one that comes to you out of the blue long after you’ve finished this process when you’re working on something else.
That’s just the way these things work. Don’t sweat it.
Target related USPs are just that – USPs that apply to a particular segment of your target group. In the case of B2B, this could be one USP that relates to the client company and one that relates either to the position within the company that purchases your product or services or that will benefit from them.
For example, if you offer corporate training, you’ll be targeting the company as a whole, the employees who will take the training and, possibly, the manager who will hire you. Each one should have their own unique USP.
After all your work on your UVP and USP, these should come to you much easier. In fact, you’ll likely be able to use some of the ones you came up with in creating your main USP.
Feature related USPs are USPs that relate to your brand or your product or service features. Feature USPs will draw on the direct and even ultimate benefits you applied to each feature.
Again, these should be as difficult at this point.
Now we’re finally at your tagline, which some people also refer to as a motto.
Your brand’s tagline will most likely be the same as or at least derived from its UVP. If you’re UVP isn’t catchy, then try to summarize it in just three to five words and make this your tagline. Use the same process as for creating your UVP.
Ok, that’s it for your UVP and USPs. That was a lot of work for a few words. In the next post we’ll work on your brand’s personality.