That’s still the name of the game.

A long-standing cornerstone of traditional marketing strategy is what’s known as the unique selling proposition (USP), or the unique selling point to help set yourself apart from the competition. Rosser Reeves, an advertising executive at the Ted Bates agency in New York known for his groundbreaking work in television advertising, developed the USP concept back in the 1940s.

Reeves stipulated that a valid USP should:

  • convey a specific benefit to consumers;
  • be unique in offering that benefit (other competitors either can’t or don’t present that particular benefit);
  • and, it must be enticing enough to stimulate consumer demand.

Unique appeal for a targeted audience

When you add a USP to your branding efforts, you’re targeting your audience with a distilled, singular message designed to reinforce why someone should select your product or service. Creating a USP, in essence, helps you to tap into what you consider to be your most unique appeal, what sets your company apart from competitors.

That unique difference could even be you – especially if you’re operating a small business. Using yourself as the USP for your business can make a lot of sense. You may well be the secret sauce that allows your enterprise to have a distinctive position in your industry. While there are more than a few examples of large companies that use a single authentic voice as the personification of their USP – think Martha Stewart, for instance – such an approach is a natural fit for a small business.

Fresh perspectives

As stated at the onset, the concept of the USP has been around for more than seven decades. It’s no surprise that marketing strategists have come to look at USPs with fresh perspectives. Some, like copywriter and educator Sonia Simone, say that trying to figure out what features of your business will translate into USP-worthy benefits is not as vital as determining your targeted audience.

“You need to stake out a favorable position in the minds of those you’re trying to attract, even while turning the wrong people away,” she has said.

Simone’s partner in a content-marketing website, Brian Clark, says that unique features have become scarce because of ever-increasing competition, making products and services indistinguishable. The “winning performance,” as Simone and Clark sometimes refer to USPs, have become “purely psychological” in the minds of prospective consumers.

Emotional triggers

Jonny Bradley, a branding authority in the U.K., has pointed out that large, successful brands have moved toward establishing emotional connections with their audiences to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. He refers to this concept as an “owned emotional selling point,” or OESP.

This works, he says, because consumers are apt to remember how they felt about a brand they’ve invested in. An emotional trigger tends to have more pull than the particular features and benefits of USPs.


The critical takeaway in a discussion of USPs is that by crafting one, you’re tapping into something that your targeted consumers will regard as relevant and of significant value. The USP is a statement that shows your audience why they should select you. You’re saying: “Look at this great benefit to you – it’s how we’re different from our competition.”

Storytelling strategy

To get even more traction in your marketing, consider the USP as a starting point, in a similar way to how you might use an elevator pitch. Make it a meaningful thought to address in an online storytelling strategy that folds emotional triggers into an overall content-marketing presentation for existing and prospective customers.

Consumers are quick to investigate their options through online searches. Help them get to the place at which your product or service is too enticing to pass on. When you frame your online presence with a relevant narrative to guide them – instead of relying on straight sales pitches – you’re establishing your business as the go-to resource among clusters of competitors that all seem to blend together.

Gerald H. Levin is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in content development for business. He is a member of the Chamber. Reach him via email or his website,

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