The deception of identical USPs

What does the U really stand for? Seriously?

Since it was coined in the 1940s, the term ‘USP’ has been in regular use in marketing circles throughout the world. Some people think of the P standing for ‘proposition’, and others say it stands for ‘point’, but everyone agrees that the U stands for ‘unique’ and the S stands for ‘selling’. But in practice, we set ourselves to forget what unique really means.

Unique: The only one of its kind; unlike anything else.


We’ve all heard it during sales and marketing meetings: ‘That really is one of our USPs.” The answer should always be: “Does no-one else offer that then?” That simple question destroys many a so-called USP.

The reason that we try to ignore the meaning of ‘unique’ is because it is hard to develop a truly unique offering. In highly developed markets, the fierce competition for sales encourages companies and brands to match whatever anyone else is offering. Features and benefits end up being very similar between competing products and services.

Identifying truly unique sales points can be almost impossible in today’s markets. We sometimes feel that companies should search for SODs not USPs. ‘Sources of Differentiation’ may not necessarily be entirely unique, but when combined into an overall package, can constitute a differentiated proposition.


The worst thing we can do is tell ourselves that we have USPs, when in fact we have none.

It’s better to be honest with ourselves and say, we don’t do anything distinctly different to our competitors, but we’re great people to deal with and we sell on personality. That honesty can at least inform our marketing approach, and some SMEs go a fair way with this approach.


In the long term, differentiated value is critical if our brand message is to have impact. There must be something in what we say that potential customers will place value on, and regard as different to what others offer.

And while it’s great if it is, that differentiated value doesn’t have to be a unique product or service.

Your SODs can come in many shapes and sizes:

  • Your underlying purpose or philosophy may set you apart
  • The way that you care for your customers can create distinct value
  • Speed of fulfilment or style of delivery can make the difference
  • Industry-leading expertise can make you a preferred source of supply
  • A unique combination of products and services is a definite SOD!


When working with clients, we regularly find that they have become blind to their real USPs or SODs, having muddled them in with other features and benefits that are common in their market, and that they feel they must offer to avoid losing business to competitors.

Maintaining a strong offering on the foundational sources of value within your marketplace is essential. The basics that your customers expect cannot be ignored. But the energy of marketing focus should revolve around three things:

  1. Regularly review what really sets you apart from your competition
  2. Keep innovating to maintain a healthy number of SODs
  3. Maintain crystal clear brand messaging to communicate the unique value you offer



Our focus is always on helping clients to identify what really differentiates them and then just keep communicating it powerfully and consistently.

Make contact if you’d like to add oomph to your brand messaging.

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Newtown, SY16 4LE

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