In my last post I talked about the concept of the ‘Unique Selling Proposition’ (USP) and that whilst it worked well at the time of its inception in the 1940s, trying to find a unique yet meaningful and relevant product USP has proved an extremely challenging task in today’s crowded marketplace.

In light of the fact that product parity is nowadays commonplace, many larger brands have shifted their focus away from increasingly similar product attributes. They’ve come to realise that oftentimes any minor product differences that do remain are pretty much irrelevant to their target user anyway.

Instead brands are increasingly differentiating themselves by communicating a unique combination of brand values (ie a unique selling personality rather than a unique selling proposition) in order to trigger an emotional response from their target audience. The thought here is that if a brand is able to garner an emotional response from their audience, then this should have a greater impact than just a logical recognition that the brand’s product is slightly superior.

This concept is often referred to as the ‘ESP’ (emotional selling proposition – a term devised by John Bartle of BBH). In order to be credible however, the ESP must reflect the perceived ‘brand truth’ (or ‘brand essence’). But this must be from the point of view of your customer – not a vain representation of who you aspire to be…

An example is Virgin Atlantic’s ‘1984’ campaign, differentiating the brand as being uniquely fun, glamorous and confident. The campaign draws on the brand’s 25-year heritage of doing things differently – an accepted brand truth that confers credibility on the emotional selling proposition. Would any other airline have got away with a similar approach?

The ‘Emotional Selling Proposition’ approach is often used with varying levels of effectiveness to underpin the Christmas campaign activity of big blue-chip brands. One of the more successful ones of recent times is the Amazon Prime TV ad from Christmas 2016 – which successfully emphasised how the service is able to bring people together from different cultures and backgrounds. Note that when the proposition is as strong as this one, no speech or explanation is required (not even the usual end-line to tie it together).

Why not try this approach yourself – is there anything unique about your brand personality or the way you do things that offers a meaningful benefit for your customers? As long as it is a genuine reflection of what your really brand stands for (and actually delivers – consistently) then it should enable you to differentiate yourself from your competitors. No mean feat these days!

If you’re interested in delving into this area in more detail (together with relevant examples), you might like my recent book ‘Successful Marketing Communications’.  If you have any thoughts or comments, do drop me a line below.

Written by Rob H

I’m a Chartered Marketer with over 20 years’ experience working in digital and offline marketing communications across the financial services, leisure, education and technology sectors – most recently working for a large financial services organisation, managing the acquisition marketing communications team. I gained an MSc in Strategic Marketing from Cranfield Business School in 2005 and the CIM Diploma in Digital Marketing in 2012. In 2012 I became the part-time course tutor at the Cambridge Marketing College for the CIM diploma in ‘Principles of Mobile Marketing’ – also authoring the accompanying Mobile Marketing study materials for the college. In March 2017 I published ‘Successful Marketing Communications‘ (available on Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks), which has become recommended reading for delegates at the IDM (Institute of Direct Marketing). When I’m not knee-deeping in reading/ writing the latest marketing communications articles I enjoy outdoor swimming and anything involving snow – with my goal for next year being to combine the two…

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