Unique Selling Position/Proposition vs. Dumb Slogans

by Dan Kennedy | April 10, 2011

How To REALLY Differentiate Yourself In The Marketplace

I recently received an article FAXed to me reporting on an extensive survey to measure the impact of advertising slogans. Among the slogans and advertising tag lines for 22 of the biggest U.S. advertisers, only 6 were recognized by more than 10% of the consumers surveyed. In other words, not even 1 out of 10 consumers could correctly identify 90% of the slogans. 16 of the 22 advertisers had slogans no one knew - each spending more than 100-million dollars a year advertising them.

Three of these much advertised slogans scored 0% recognition. 0%!! Take the test, see if you can name any of the big, dumb companies that match these slogans: (Answers at bottom of page??)

1. We're With You
2. That Was Easy
3. The Stuff Of Life

Only Wal-Mart's "Always Low Prices" was recognized by 64% of the consumers tested. (And by the way, if you can't have the lowest prices, you might as well be the highest. Not much cache in "Almost Always Almost Lowest Prices Most Days".)

Those faring poorly, like #1 above, argued that they had only been advertising their slogan for TWO YEARS!!!! - and quote, "it takes time to build brand identity." #3's spokesman justified their disaster as "only a transitional slogan", stating they were moving toward yet another new brand-focused identity, whatever the beejeezus that is. (Translation: new slogan being thought up.)

The real laugher is that the copy of this article sent to me was from USA TODAY's website, and at the end of it two companies paid to advertise their services, doing, yep, "corporate branding."

Is a Slogan a Brand?

Isn't a Slogan Like a USP?

No, a slogan is not a brand, and these results are not exactly an indictment of all brand-building approaches. However it's easy to go awry and wind up with branding that looks good but does nothing. There's a tightrope to walk there, and it's easy to fall off. Most ad agency types do.


Why should I, your prospect, choose to do business with you versus any and every other option?

What is the one thing you do better than anyone else?
What are you known for?
What do you WANT to be known for?

(If your clients are asked to summarize their experiences with you in ten words or less what will they say?)

A slogan is definitely NOT a USP, although it can represent telegraph or at least be congruent with a USP. Actually Wal-Mart's is the only slogan in all the ones tested via this survey that enunciates a USP. It is not coincidentally, the only effective slogan. The others not only fail the Dan Kennedy USP Question #1, they also are so generic they could easily be used by anybody. For example, "That Was Easy" could certainly work for Boston Market - how easy it is to put a 'home cooked' dinner on the family table, or for DiTech - how easy it is to get a home loan.

Warning: if anybody and everybody can use your USP, it ain't one. If any and every Tom, Dick and Mary can use your slogan, why on earth would you want it?

In each of these cases, the minute the ad agency charlatans revealed these slogans in the corporate clients' boardrooms, the CEO's should have stood up, pulled out a gun, shot one of them somewhere it would really hurt and bleed a lot but not kill him, and yelled "NEXT."

This is the kind of chronic stupidity I encountered when working with big, dumb companies like Weight Watchers and Mass Mutual. (Incidentally, Weight Watchers could use any of the above three dead bag loser slogans. Mass Mutual could use two of them, and probably would.)

For the record, some of the other losers from the survey:

4. "The Good Life. Great Price." - 2%
5. "We Bring good things To Life" - 3%
6. "Your potential. Our passion." - 1%

Every company behind these losers had a spokesperson ready with an excuse. Nobody said, truthfully, "We're idiots."

Be Very Hard On Yourself, And Anybody Who Contributes To Your Marketing

My ex-wife often said I was too hard on myself. My current companion has made exactly the same statement, verbatim. Well, you don't get rich, create international prominence as an expert in anything, master a craft, before age 50, by being wimpy about it. You can't be giving yourself "time out cards" and sitting around cross legged on the yoga mat reading Dr. Phil books and squeezing stress balls. Doesn't cut it.

One place you gotta be really, really tough is toward the marketing stuff you spew out, or let others spew under your name. When I see really dumb or pitiful ineffective advertising, lousy copy, and money wasted, I wonder: don't you have any PRIDE? That stinky, smelly vomit is going out there from you.

Maybe I just detest being laughed at and making an ass of myself more than most people. If I was the CEO of the companies behind slogan #1, #2 or #3, heads would roll when I saw the survey. And my spokespeople wouldn't be blathering to the reporter with excuses either. I'd tell the reporter: "We owe our stockholders and our customers a huge apology for wasting their money and for hiring stupid people. Today I have fired the stupid people. I am personally rolling up my sleeves and fixing this. Within 2 weeks, you'll see ads and commercials that actually say something." Too hard on myself, huh?

How to Create 'Separation'

One of the goals of USP-based identity is separation; separating yourself from competition and clutter, so you stand out on a hilltop, with everything else distances from you, down below you. There are five ways of doing this:

1. Product
2. Price
3. Process
4. Service
5. Marketing

Having a truly unique product is as rare as catching Dennis Kucinich making sense, and even if you have one, you won't keep the position long, so #1 is a poor choice. Price is the worst option, unless you are at the very high end of your spectrum and using that position to attract exceptionally affluent customers - and again, it's hard to sustain price positioning, low or high.

"Process' offers more opportunity. Cancer Centers of America has a process story that separates it from all other medical alternatives. Process is a way of making a non-unique product feel unique to the customer.

In our non-service world, service can certainly be a means of separation, and can be married to dramatic guarantees. I have long been a proponent of replacing the antiquated "find a need and fill it" with "find out what really p.o.'s customers, fix it, and advertise it." As an example, I know a painting contractor who promises his painters will not play loud rock music, smoke, cuss, stink up the bathroom, leave a mess behind, and will show up as scheduled. These are service pledges directly responsive to consumer complaints. Do you know what your customers are p.o.'d about?

Of course, marketing - our kind of marketing - can, in and of itself, create separation. If everyone else's looks alike, you win solely by looking different. That's one of the chief reasons why Bill Glazer's is so effective. His marketing doesn't look like everyone else's. In a room of "blue men", the green one stands out.

Through one or more of the five, you need to ideally develop actual, legitimate, unique selling position(s) or, at least, the perception, the feel of unique position.

Did you know the companies based on their slogans?

Slogan 1: We're With You - Circuit City
Slogan 2: That Was Easy - Staples
Slogan 3: The Stuff Of Life - Kmart

Dan S. Kennedy is the provocative, truth-telling author of thirteen business books; a serial, multi-millionaire entrepreneur; trusted marketing advisor, consultant and coach to hundreds of private clients running businesses from $1-million to $1-billion in size; and he influences well over 1-million independent business owners annually through his newsletters, tele-coaching programs, local Chapters and Kennedy Study Groups meeting in over 100 cities.

Glazer-Kenndey Insiders Circle, owned and operated by internationally known marketing personalities Dan Kennedy and Bill Glazer, is THE place where truly smart, progressive, aggressive entrepreneurs with a love for marketing, a sincere desire to get rich and richer (with no apologies for doing so), and an optimistic, forward-looking attitude, gather' to exchange and share timely information and "what's working today" strategies and examples. Get Bill Glazer's #1 Bestselling Book, "Outrageous Advertising" for FREE. Click here.


Chia-Li Chien, CFP®, CRPC, PMP; helps entrepreneurs to creating business value that transforms their world.  She is the author of Show Me The Money and columnist for WomenEntrepreneur.com & Fox Business online.   She is available for consulting, speaking engagements and workshops.  She can be reached at http://www.chialichien.com or jolly@chialichien.com.


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