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How to Tell Your Brand Story Part 2: Examining Your USP

How to Tell a Brand Story

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If you’ve tried to work through building your own brand story, you may have quickly realized that the process is more complex than it looks at first glance.

One critical component to getting your story straight is to nail your USP, as seen through the eyes of your best prospect or persona.

Only when you have completed this part of the process can you tell your brand story in a way that emotionally connects with your ideal persona. And isn’t that the purpose?

Part 1 of this blog series presented the big picture of how to tell your brand story. It focused on the overall framework of the hero’s journey and revealed that the prospect is the hero (not your brand).

The following is part 2 of a 4 part series on How to Tell Your Brand Story:

Part 1: Following the Hero’s Journey

Part 2: Examining your USP

Part 3: Connecting the Dots

Part 4: Simplifying for longevity

Get ready for a crash course on USPs.

What is the USP, and why does it matter?

USP stands for Unique Selling Proposition or Unique Selling Point. Like the brand story framework, it seems simple at its surface until you drill down into it. 

The History of the USP

Madison Avenue pioneer Rosser Reeves is credited with creating the term USP in the 40s or 50s. Reeves was Ted Bates’ creative partner at Ted Bates & Company from 1940-1965. He explained his theory of communication, the Unique Selling Proposition (USP), in his classic advertising book Reality in Advertising in the 1960s. His most famous slogan was “M&M’s melt in your mouth, not in your hand.”

Reeves’ USP theory was simple:

  1. Each ad must make a proposition to the consumer…” buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit.”
  2. The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot or does not offer.

In short, your USP captures the essence of what makes your product or service uniquely different than your competition.

The Customer is the Center of the Universe

And just like brand storytelling, the USP forces you to recognize that the prospect or customer is at the center of your USP. Your product must help your customer solve a problem. People buy products to meet specific emotional needs or solve a problem. 

As legendary Harvard Business School marketing scholar Theodore Levitt famously said, “people don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter-inch hole.”

You must identify the problem you solve or the need you fulfill. And who most needs that problem solved. Figure that out, and you’ve got your ideal customer persona.

If you’ve already created buyer personas, this exercise helps you understand why that buyer would be emotionally interested in your solution.

The sooner you realize that marketing is customer and consumer-centric, the better your chance at success.

As our longtime Mattel Toys client Cathy Parks explained, “Every single new SKU we launched at Mattel, from a Barbie doll accessory to a Hot Wheels track set started with a USP before product development began.”

USPs Direct Creative

This uncompromising, strategic approach ensured that the marketing team had clarity from the beginning on exactly what made each toy unique and served as a creative roadmap for developing the supporting marketing campaigns.

Articulating your USP gives you insight into your Ideal Customer Persona and Key Benefit

When you complete the USP exercise, you’ve clarified three critical components of your brand story:

  1. The ideal customer
  2. What problem you solve
  3. Why that matters

Workshop Your Own USP

Can you articulate your brand’s USP? Do you develop a USP for every new solution? Could you use a framework? We created a course around creating your USP, as the pandemic began, as a way to help SMBs better understand and leverage marketing to survive and pivot. If you’re fuzzy on your ideal target audience and would like to workshop through the entire process, check out the course details.

USPs Deliver Tactical Marketing Clarity

Nailing your USP is a significant step in clarifying your umbrella marketing message and making the rest of the marketing process more manageable. You stop chasing shiny objects, as you can see what tactics align with your message and which don’t. That’s the power of the USP and your overarching brand story.

Long-lasting USP Insights

The insights revealed in your USP can lead to set-it-and-forget-it marketing campaigns. For instance, insights gleaned from our research with Makita Power Tools in the early 2000s convinced them to align with soccer properties. The relationship paid off in year one, and they continued their sponsorship with the Mexican National Team and MLS for over 15 years.

XPROMOS leveraged USP insights to recommend and negotiate the Makita Power Tools sponsorship of the Mexican National Team that lasted for 15 years.

You Know Your Audience; Let’s Get to the USP

“My (product name) is the only (product category) that (solves this problem/fulfills this need/has this benefit)” so that (my ideal persona) can (articulate deeper, personal benefit)

Your USP must resonate with every ideal customer persona, even though the “so that” may change as you focus on different audiences. For instance, the value of your most significant benefit is felt differently by a CEO than by the IT department. Same benefit, different prioritized worth, and differing personal benefits.

A Hairbrush Example?

Let’s take a B2C example, like a detangler hairbrush. This hairbrush different than all other hairbrushes on the market. And not just in the color of the handle or type of bristles or shape. The USP of the detangling hairbrush might say, “our hairbrush detangles hair gently so that brushing never again brings tears to your child’s eyes.”

The “so that” explains why your target audience emotionally cares about your product benefit. In this case, it’s clear why detangler brushes would target parents. No one likes to pull their own hair when it’s tangled, but parents know the nightmarish consequences of pulling their own child’s hair. Talk about evoking emotion! This hairbrush eliminates a real problem, especially when thinking about the already existing chaos in most family homes during a typical morning routine. A pulled hair meltdown can have painful ramifications. It can set a negative tone for the day. The child might be late to school (another tardy), and the parent risks being late for an important meeting or commitment at work. When you think through all the realistic turmoil that tangly hair can cause, it’s easy to see why parents eagerly invest in quality detangling brushes.

Who’s Experiencing the Deepest Pain?

No one has unlimited resources, so you must put your stake in the ground with your ideal customer persona. Since the goal is to tell your brand story, which works by evoking emotion, why not start with the audience experiencing the most pain from the problem you solve? They are the ones who would be most motivated to choose your solution. Often this may be reflected in your buyer personas as the influencer vs. the decision-maker. Influencers may be the ones in the trenches who would rely on your solution daily, but they may not control the budget allocation. Use your stories to make them passionate advocates to convince the decision-makers of the worth of your solution.

Don’t Look at Your Product in a Vacuum

Imagine your product or service in the hands of your ideal persona. Think about how it looks out there in the digital metaverse. You’re competing for attention with so many other brands that the more clarity you can bring to your message, the more likely you are to be found by your ideal consumer.

Why Fuss about the USP?

The USP exercise helps you better understand what your product does and what that means to your target audience. Think about the problem it solves for your customer personas. Don’t overlook the end benefit. Think about the ramifications when your B2B SaaS automates processes and eliminates errors. Automating processes saves time, so that your persona can get home on time, be more confident in meeting KPIs, allow employees to make more meaningful contributions. Keep saying “so that” to get as emotionally deep as you can.

You’re Not Finished. Dive Deeper. Keep going.

When you figure out what specific purpose your product serves, you need to dig deeper into why that matters. What’s the more profound benefit of getting home on time? More time with the kids or significant other? Time for passion hobbies? Side hustle? Workouts? So that… you can enjoy a better quality of life, feel fulfilled, feel in control. Now you’re getting somewhere. You’ve begun to uncover the more meaningful benefits your ideal persona can gain with your solution. You can see the transformation.

Brainstorm a few for Your Brand Story

Every benefit can have its own story of value. Every “so that” can take you down a different path. The more you know about your ideal customer persona, the more personal you can get. Imagine the impact in ABM, where your audience shares traits, or the 1 to 1’s where you know so much more? Now you can weave in “so that you can spend more time building your boat” or whatever specific hobby information you have about your target.

When you can get deeper into the motivation of your consumer personas, you can make a big difference in the success of your marketing message.

What’s the Real Benefit of Saving Time and Money?

Many B2B SaaS brands are stuck on the “save time and money” hamster wheel. We shared one aha with a client: if that’s the best benefit you can share for a portfolio of products, you’d better create a process by which the customer can evaluate one vs. the others. Show them the individual benefits and let them self select how they want to prioritize.

Help Prospects Prioritize

Picture yourself in your prospect’s shoes. If you were considering six different solutions, each of which could help yourorganization’s digital transformation, how do you decide which to choose? Help your ideal prospects prioritize your solution with meaningful organic content that answers their questions and tells brand stories about the transformation.

The USP Delivers Key Pieces for Your Brand Story

To have your USP nailed means you know what makes your solution unique in your space and why it matters to your ideal persona, on both a surface and deeper level. These pieces of information become critical as you begin to tell your brand story.

Remember, the basic framework to tell your brand story is:

  • A character: Your ideal prospect. Your best customer persona.
  • Has a problem: with your USP, you can much better articulate the problem that your prospect is facing, knowing that your brand can fix it.
  • And meets a guide: you.
  • Who gives them a plan: your brand’s solution, product, service.
  • That calls them to action: Describe what the hero needs to do to execute this plan. Use the USP to articulate how your product or service helps solve their problem.
  • That results in success: Refer to the USP for what success looks like on the surface and on a deeper level.
  • And helps them avoid failure: What failure or pain (outlined in your USP) are they averting?
  • Describe the transformation. Recap and describe the hero’s transformation: From (pain) to (joy).

Now it’s more apparent that leaning in on the USP is tremendously helpful in getting your brand story right.

Next time, in Part 3 of How to Tell Your Brand Story we will discuss connecting the dots to create your brand story.

Want to create a brand story but don’t have the current capacity? We can help! Reach out and ask about our current offer on crystallizing your brand story.

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