Saturday, September 20, 2008

Is the USP dead?

PG tips promotional monkey.Image via WikipediaPaul Fedwick explodes the message myth - arguing that the "message transition" model of how advertising works does not apply to most commercials. Successful ads must communicate, using a 1960's axiom by psychoterapist Paul Watzlawick through 'analogue' as well as 'digital'. Digital is about information that can be digitalized without any loss. Anlogue is "visual, audible, gestural or tactile and the power of an image, or a poem or a story or a hug or a piece of music".

Fedwick shows how many powerful ads do not communicate any meaningful or strong message but capture the emotions of recipients. He therefore argues we should lose a focus on Unique Selling Proposition and start focusing on associations and relationships.

I have a feeling that the optimal approach may not be an either/or. Rather, different personality types are likely to respond differently to ads. I have found the framework expounded by Bryan Eisenberg of FutureNow very useful. It segments buyers into four types: competitive, methodical, sponntaneous and humanistic.

To buy, each needs to have different priorities satisfied. Put simply the Sponntaneous will decide in your favor fast if you assure them you will deliver as promised. The Methodical will try to collect as much information as possible before commiting. The Competitive type will buy if he believes he will outdo others by the purchase. Finally, Humanistic customer will buy if he or she likes you and feel good about you.

This applies to website design and design of the buying process. But it should equally hold for advertising. Analogue probably works for the Humanistic (and of course the Humanistic side in all of us) but a Sponntaneous may respond better to being provided the key assurances he is looking for.

The question then becomes
a. what are the shares of the different types (or rather strength of the traits within people) in the target population,
b. which types will respond to advertising in the given medium (regardless of format).

You would then invest resources where most effective - where you will achieve the most conversions (whatever they are for you).

At Pizza SEO we discuss Unique Selling Proposition in relation to client websites. We advise clients to try to communicate it early on. In some circumstances the USP may be communicated less directly (it does not have to always be a tag line right below your logo in the upper left corner). Associations and relationships can work side by side with a strong USP.

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