Tuesday, August 23, 2005

:: adgruntie :: USP

+Paul Kitcatt, creative partner at Integrated agency Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw, writes a piece for the Media Guardian: The Strange Death of the USP. He questions why there is a decline in advertising that uses the USP.
In other words, the clients don't bother to come up with USPs, preferring to let the creatives invent something meretricious.
In some of my experiences, it does seem like there are clients who don't want to be too different from their competitors. They want their ads to look like and sound like the top seller in their category. But there's also the parity issue.
Perhaps the problem is complexity. There are so many products, that differ so infinitesimally, that it's impossible to make a flat-out claim of superiority for any of them.
And this is also a big problem. You can't come up with a USP if there isn't anything unique about what you have to offer. Advertising and branding then become the differentiating factor.
Faced with such choice, it is in fact reasonable for customers to do what clients seem to do, and let the advertising do the work. The clients abandon the search for a USP and wait and see if their agency can make an ad that's better than the competition's. The customer can then choose the product with the advertising they like best. And thus, in effect, the advertising becomes the USP.

So maybe it's not dead after all - it's just moved home. But every now and then some one comes up with a product that has a genuine USP - like Dyson, for example. And transforms the market. Which proves, I think, that it's better to come up with a USP that is inherent in the product, rather than in the advertising.

Because after all, ads are ephemeral, and the public's response to them unpredictable, even whimsical. And ads based on no real product superiority are the most likely to descend into vacuous (but expensive) nonsense. Look at most banks' advertising.
Kitcatt definitely raises some good points. And my personal belief is that a good amount of advertising today forgets some of the most basic, rudimentary "rules" or words of wisdom for advertising. Sometimes it feels like we're going backwards instead of forwards. Even worse is to see a brand with a USP not using it in their advertising. Especially when there are so many categories out there that are really just a sea of "me-too" type products or services, not taking advantage of the USP when you have one is just plain stupid.

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