How Are You Different?

You already know you’re unique because your mother told you so. And she was right! Your company or organization is unique too. Defining what makes it stand out and communicating that to your clients, customers and prospects is key to successful branding.

This is where your USP, or Unique Selling Proposition comes in. If you don’t like the word “selling,” or feel it isn’t appropriate for what you do, you can call it your Unique Market Proposition (UMP) or Point of Difference (POD). Whatever you call it, you have to assign an acronym to it.

A successful USP might tell you what type of person or audience you appeal to, promise a specific benefit, and/or offer a unique guarantee. It will answer questions for your audience like:

Why should I do business with/spend time with/shop with you instead of anyone or everyone else?
What can you/your product/your service/your information do for me that I can’t get elsewhere?
What can you guarantee me that no one else will?

A USP can focus on:

  • your service
  • your market
  • your product
  • your customer experience
  • your pricing 

use your heart photo

Use your heart to help you find it
When you’re defining the key reason people should feel passionately about you, your product, your service or your cause, it’s a good idea to let your emotions influence you. You want emotions to influence the way your audience feels about you, right? Don’t be afraid to get a little sappy in your thinking. Just make sure it’s genuine.

Use your personality
You can use your personality as the focal point of either a service, a cause, or a product. This approach is usually more suited to very small businesses and individuals, but it can occasionally work for larger companies when the public face is one persona. Celebrity endorsements are about personality. In the case of Mr. Clean, a fictional mascot is the face of the product and the personality behind it. Mascots never age, and can stay attached to the company even if it passes to new owners.

Look at your values
What’s important to you? How are you trying to make things better (for your customers, your community, or for the planet)? Patagonia is a good example of a value-based brand. Their value is ecology. Helping the environment and reducing toxic impact is part of their mission statement, and they follow through. Patagonia is a member of multiple environmental movements, has launched its own worldwide ecological initiatives, uses green design in facility construction, and contributes significantly to environmental causes.  Value-based branding is usually a longer-term strategy. It takes time for your audience to see that your money is where your mouth is.

Focus on your audience
Narrowing your target can differentiate you. Try establishing who is not in your audience to help get specific about who is. Unless your strategy is to use aspirational branding—where a significant part of your audience wishes to own your product, but cannot afford it—you will likely be targeting a demographic who has the income to buy what you are offering.

Examine the intersection of ideas
This is a place where familiar things combine to make something unique or innovative. At the iPad2 launch in March 2011, Steve Jobs said,

“It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices…”

If you’d like further reading, Frans Johansson examines this crossroads concept as it relates to innovation in The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Cultures