In order to manage the value you bring to your customer, you need to do two crucial things before anything else: You need to know what your value is, and you need to do a good job of communicating that specific value, memorably, to your audience.

Crystallizing that concept of your brand’s specific value into an efficient, catchy statement will result in your unique selling proposition. Companies use these propositions, or USPs, to quickly and (hopefully) effectively communicate what makes their product or service better than their competition.

Sometimes a USP is good. It’s witty, it’s bold, it creates an instant picture in the mind of the audience.

Other times, not so much. Let’s take a look at some good and bad USPs to get a sense of what really works in a stellar unique selling proposition.

USPs: The Good, the Bad, and the Simply Ineffective

  • Good: Apple’s Mac Pro campaign initially used the slogan ‘Beauty outside, Beast inside.’ Aside from sparking nostalgic vibes for those who love romantic fairytales, this USP suggests that aesthetic appeal is an important attribute of a personal computer – along with, of course, the cutting-edge processors that Apple debuted with their Pro line.
  • Bad: An online accounting aide, Invoice Dude, attempts to manage customer value by stating, simply, “Invoice Dude is an online billing software specially designed for small and medium businesses.” This is neither short nor unique, and it’s dull as dishwater.
  • Good: M&M’s ‘melt in your mouth, not in your hand’ slogan tells a suddenly-hungry audience that these candies are more than mouthwateringly good: They won’t stain your hands or your clothes.
  • Bad: NovaMind, an online mind-mapping and brainstorming tool, came up with this short USP: “Visualize your information to get things done.” Unfortunately, this is too vague to be helpful or memorable.
  • Good: Fedex innovated overnight delivery and capitalized on it to great effect with a memorable USP. It’s one that connotes both urgency and confidence: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” As a consumer, you hear that and you’re nodding. You’ve experienced the dread of hoping an important package magically teleports to a sensitive destination in time. With Fedex – you think – you won’t have to worry a bit.

When you’re putting together your USP, remember that it’s got to be four things: unique, desirable, short, and specific. If you can make it witty or shocking, that’s extra credit – but don’t try too hard, or your brand might become memorable in a less-than-helpful way.