The History of USP

by buildingpharmabrands

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The USP (Unique Selling Proposition) was originally discussed in the 1940s and defined in  print by one of the advertising legends, Rosser Reeves (September 10, 1910 – January 24, 1984). He was concerned that advertising was losing track of its purpose. It was becoming more about art and less about selling the product. He said in his classic book Reality in Advertising published in 1961, that there are three requirements for a USP :

  1. Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer, not just words; not just product puffery, not just show-window advertising. Each advertisement must say to each reader: Buy this product and you will get this specific benefit.
  2. The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot, or does not offer. It must be unique – either a uniqueness of the brand or a claim not otherwise made in that particular field of advertisement.
  3. The proposition must be so strong that it can move the mass millions i.e., pull over new customers to your product.

The term, USP today is commonly used to refer to any aspect of an object that differentiates it from similar objects. In the marketing lexicon, however, the Positioning concept has been replacing the term USP. A position is often described as a meaningful differentiation (USP?). Positioning is determining what place or position your brand should occupy in the consumer’s mind in comparison to its competition.

Reeves believed that the purpose of advertising is to sell. He insisted that advertisement should show and demonstrate the value of a product, not the cleverness of a copywriter.

His most typical ad based on the concept of the USP is probably for Anacin, a headache tablet. The ad was considered annoying by most of the viewers, but it was remarkably successful tripling the product’s sales.

It is said that the 59-second commercial made more money in seven years than the movie, Gone With The Wind made in twenty-five years!

Reeves pointed out that to work, advertising has to be honest. He insisted that the product being sold must actually be superior. No amount of advertisement could move inferior goods.

Image Source: WisconsinHistory.org