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Mastering the World of Marketing: The Ultimate Training Resource from the Biggest Names in Marketing by David Riklan, Eric Taylor

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Chapter 45

The Importance of Being Different

Jack Trout

In 1960, an advertising agency chairman named Rosser Reeves was known as the high priest of hard sell. He wrote a very popular book titled Reality in Advertising. His book was translated into 28 languages and was widely used as a college textbook. In many ways it was the beginning of modern-day marketing.

In his book he introduced and defined a concept called the “unique selling proposition,” or USP for short.

The Definition

To Rosser, the USP was a precise term so he gave it a three-part definition:

1. Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer. Not just words, not just product puffery, not just show-window advertising. Each advertisement must say to each reader: “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. It must be unique—either a uniqueness of the brand or a claim not otherwise made in that particular field of advertising.

3. The proposition must be so strong that it can move the mass millions (i.e., to pull over new customers to your product).

He went on to say that most advertising in that day was “the tired art of puffery.” There was no real message. Copywriters who did not understand reality wrote these advertisements.

Well, you might think that this was an argument of the past and that Mr. Reeves's ideas have long been accepted by today's advertising practitioner.

Wrong.

The Argument Still Rages ...

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