The rise of the pointless USP

Strategy in 99 seconds or so ✏️

Brand managers can obsess over identifying or creating the most finite unique selling point, that ultimately you lose sight of what consumers actually want or need. Just because it’s distinctive, doesn’t mean it’s any good. In fact, if nobody else is doing it that way, there is probably a reason.

As strategists, it’s key we frame the importance of differentiation, rather than difference. Every brand has the opportunity to look and behave differently, whether you’re a brown fizzy drink or market comparison site.

Our role is identifying ways brands can speak, behave and create relevance that capture the imaginations and feelings of consumers at that time. That usually means getting as creative as possible.

If you set your objectives right and benchmark your evaluation tools rigorously, that should (in theory), give you the freedom to push the boundaries and not be prescribed to a set way of doing things. Back in 2007, Cadbury had identified their USP as using a ‘Glass and a Half of Milk’ in every bar – but in reality, Galaxy probably had a milkier taste. They needed a differentiation in the way they behaved, and the way people felt about a classic UK brand.

The ‘drumming gorilla’ was born – and in fact, bombed in all research and testing. However, confident in their objective to represent joy - they could move away from the product itself and any potential USPs, towards the feelings at the heart of the chocolate category.


Zennen Thomas, Account Planner @ Walker