The unique Selling Proposition and the FWMTF Syndrome ( Forget What Made Them Famous ) Syndrome

Differentiation is about creating a unique selling proposition for your Brand. Unique selling Proposition or USP, was a term coined by the Advertising legend Rosser Reeves. He defines it as a proposition that your competitor ether does not or can not offer.

Many people have argued that Unique Selling Proposition USP is out dated and irrelevant. In my opinion USP might be a old concept but that does not make it less credible today than in 1961. Differentiation is what lets a brand shine distinctly from the sea of competitors and to differentiate its important to be different in a Unique way that brings up the USP for the brand. This way you are differentiation in a way that’s relevant to your customers and is problematic for your competitors too. Nevertheless there are so many reasons why people have dismissed it.

One, people tend to forget over time what works and what does not. Jack Trout, the man who invented the concept of positioning in 1969, writes that this is a phenomenon that affects many corporations once they become successful. He calls it The FWMTF ( Forget What Made Them Famous ) Syndrome.

Just look around and u can trace their success down to a USP that they had in the beginning. Example: Ford is a company that is in lot of trouble today that’s because according to me they forgot what made them famous in first place.

Ford was the first company in the worked to mass-produce cars in an efficient, low-cost manner for the masses. Once it became famous, it forgot that. It got complacent, and that allowed the Japanese and now the Koreans- to catch up.

Ford’s problem is not that people are migrating from mass-market to premium brands as many analysts have suggested. Sure, premium brands like BMW and Audi and now outselling Ford in many markets (Particularly in the mid sized segment ), but mass cars have not lost their footing and are still very much in demand. Those made by Toyota sell in the millions, so much so that Toyota  has now become the No.1 care manufacture in the world, overtaking GM.

So Ford’s problem is one of differentiation. What Ford’s USP? That is hard to pin down. Toyota is very clearly differentiated by its reliability. Without a USP Ford is vulnerable. It becomes the same as other car brands, and today’s hypercompetitive market, sameness is the equivalent of a death sentence for the brand.

The Second reason is that people are always exited by what is new. Setting up a new category can always boost your presence. Its some thing similar to what TATA NANO did – created a new segment for a 1 lac car. People are also brand and they want to be famous too. Rosser Reeves became a famous brand because he invented the USP. If you want to  be famous in field of Marketing what will you do? Create a better USP? That would not work. You would need some thing new. So, academics and consultants came up with new concepts all the time, to make names for themselves. Do a search in Google and see how many you can find. Trust me, there will be more than you can even remember, or use.

The fault is not just with the academics and consultants general people are to be blamed. They feel if the concept is old its outdated or useless. But they think this way. They become exited every time a new fangled concept comes along. After a while, the buzz and the hype surrounding that concept dies down and it becomes less relevant. And then what do people do? They look for the next big thing the next Buzzz….

Therefore there is no surprise that the good old concept USP is dead ( as a Business ). Well you dismiss it as your own risk. Without a USP you will not have a strong brand. Its in oldie is the the goodie. Don’t dismiss it just yet.

The third reason why USP is not given the importance these days is that its hard to find a Unique Selling Proposition. Finding a USP is hard but hanging on to the USP is harder.

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