How To Come Up With A USP When You Don’t Have One – Part 1 [Copywriting Guides]

A Unique Selling Point/Proposition (USP) is how you position yourself, a product, or a company to your market to let them know a) you exist, b) you’re different, and c) why they should buy whatever you’re selling right now.

But searching for a USP when one doesn’t exist can be a little daunting. For example, if you’re a general copywriter (ie. you don’t specialise in any particular niche), then you’re amongst a large group of more or less identical looking people as far as your target market is concerned.

So how do you stand out and be noticed? One way is to brand yourself. You could do this simply by wearing a brightly coloured hat wherever you go (there are numerous professional speakers and a few pop stars who do this successfully).

It doesn’t have to be a hat though, you could wear any type of clothing as long as it stood out (lots of celebrities from all walks of life choose this – British comedian Harry Hill did it with his oversized giant shirt collars).

What has any of that got to do with copywriting? Nothing. It’s just a way to be SEEN to be different (and for those willing to try it, it just might be the one thing you’re missing).

The problem is there are a million look-alike products and companies out there plying for trade (not just us copywriters). So what makes them different? It’s often a combination of a few things from the personality of their sales people to regular special offers to constantly reaching out to prospects (the latter being the sure fire way to get business).

For the first part of this series on USPs, let’s look at an old favourite of mine I’ve covered previously – US brewer Anheuser Busch. They make beer along with hundreds of thousands of other brewing companies. They’re all in the same boat. I mean, a beer is a beer right? WRONG. Of course not. It’s a bird, it’s a horse, it’s a 1950s pinup girl (or was in our politically incorrect world back then).
So here’s ten of the ways Anheuser overcame their ‘commodity’ problem (which you may be able to use yourself with a little tweaking):

1. Use your logo and a slogan to tell a story. They added an Eagle to their logo making it the Eagle of Beers (they did it again later with another of their brands: Budweiser – The King of Beers).

2. Be first by creating a geographically unique market out of thin air: “First National Beer Brewed Exclusively in Hell, Michigan” (I made that one up, but you get the idea).

3. Get sexist. The ‘Budweiser Girl’ poster campaign lasted 30 years (advertisers still use the female and male form to sell things today including the old reliables of perfumes and cars).

4. Launch a campaign. Anheuser’s USP in 1914 was its year-long newspaper campaign against the threat to personal freedom from prohibition. When prohibition came, they created a new alcohol-free product called Bevo (first to market USP). Half the brewers went bust during prohibition, but not Anheuser.

5. In the 1930’s they used heavy horses to show their historical connection with brewing (“you may love your new car, but you can always rely on a traditional brew” – selling old as new).

6. In the 1950’s they used their 100th anniversary to differentiate. And they attached further differentiation using the association of famous historical characters with their “The Beer of Your Lifetime Too” campaign.

7. By 1960 they’d become number one by associating their brand with the mass market. The “people like us drink beer like this” concept, or as they put it “Where there’s life, there’s Bud”.

8. In 1965 they introduced ‘value’ as a USP with the simple slogan “It’s worth it” (can you see how easy it is to create USP’s? – just add a copywriter). They missed a trick though. They made it about the beer, not the drinker. L’Oreal stole the idea 7 years later and made it personal (“You’re worth it”).

9. Give it a nickname. Hey, why not use a nickname as your USP? And let’s make it all warm and cozy “Fancy a Bud, bud?”.

10. You can even USP on sound, as in the famous fizzy “Buscssssshhhhh” sound of the cap popping off campaign in the 1970’s. Schweppes did the same thing in the UK.

But what are people using today to mark them out as different? Click here for part 2.

PS. Parts of this piece appeared in a post I wrote some years ago, just updated to help us all move into 2021 with a little more hope.


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