Unique selling proposition

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The unique selling proposition (USP) or unique selling point is a marketing concept first proposed as a theory to explain a pattern in successful advertising campaigns of the early 1940s. The USP states that such campaigns made unique propositions to customers that convinced them to switch brands. The term was developed by television advertising pioneer Rosser Reeves of Ted Bates & Company. Theodore Levitt, a professor at Harvard Business School, suggested that, "Differentiation is one of the most important strategic and tactical activities in which companies must constantly engage."[1] The term has been used to describe one's "personal brand" in the marketplace.[2] Today, the term is used in other fields or just casually to refer to any aspect of an object that differentiates it from similar objects.


In Reality in Advertising[3] Reeves laments that the USP is widely misunderstood and defines it in three parts, summarized here:

  1. Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer—not just words, product puffery, or show-window advertising. Each advertisement must say to each reader: "Buy this product, for this specific benefit."
  2. The proposition must be one the competition cannot or does not offer. It must be unique—either in the brand or in a claim the rest of that particular advertising area does not make.
  3. The proposition must be strong enough to move the masses, i.e., attract new customers as well as potential customers.


Some good current examples of products with a clear USP are:

Unique propositions that were pioneers when introduced include:

  • Anacin "Fast, fast, incredibly fast relief." In 1952, Rosser Reeves created a TV commercial that capitalized on Anacin's "special ingredient," caffeine, by suggesting limitations of other aspirin and repeating, three times, the differentiation proposition: fast.[4]
  • Domino's Pizza: "You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less—or it's free."
  • FedEx: "When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight."
  • M&M's: "Melts in your mouth, not in your hand."
  • Metropolitan Life: "Get Met. It Pays."
  • Southwest Airlines: "We are the low-fare airline."[5]


The term USP has been largely replaced[according to whom?] by the concept of a positioning statement, popularized by the publication of Al Ries and Jack Trout's Positioning:Battle For Your Mind.[6] The positioning statement determines what place a brand (tangible good or service) should occupy in the consumer's mind compared to the competition. The model directs managers to determine the cognitive gap, locating "which functional benefit in a given category is most valued by consumers and least dominated by other brands."[6] Positioning is also commonly known as mindshare marketing, the aim is to stake a claim to the cognitive association in consumers' minds, connecting the brand's trademark with the benefit claim as "simply, consistently and frequently as possible."[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Levitt, Theodore (1986). The marketing imagination (New, expanded ed.). New York: Free Press. ISBN 0029191807. 
  2. ^ "Reinventing Your Personal Brand". Harvard Business Review. March 2011. 
  3. ^ Reeves, Rosser (1961). Reality in Advertising. Macgibbon and Kee. pp. 46–48. ISBN 0394442288. 
  4. ^ Butler (2006). Television Critical Methods and Applications. (3rd ed.). Hoboken: Taylor & Francis Ltd. p. 420. ISBN 1410614743. 
  5. ^ Goodwin, Bryan (2011). Simply better : doing what matters most to change the odds for student success. Alexandria, Va.: ASCD. p. 11. ISBN 1416612955. 
  6. ^ a b c Holt, Douglas; Cameron, Douglas (2010). Cultural Strategy. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-958740-7.