Unique is an over used word!

In this increasingly competitive and crowded global market place it is tempting to claim our product or service is unique in order to stand out from the crowd, but is it true? The definition of ‘unique’ is ‘the only one of its kind’, ‘unlike anything else’, use the word to describe anything that doesn’t meet this definition and you are lying. Maybe lying is a harsh word but it could well be the way your audience perceives your claim and if they think you have lied with one word they may think that none of your claims are true.

There's not much to set this builder apart from the competition.

There’s not much to set this builder apart from the competition.

The trouble with the overuse of unique is that nobody really believes it any more so, to add credibility, the word has to be justified with an explanation.

Is Rosser Reeves to blame?

I believe that many business owners get hung up on the idea of the unique selling proposition (USP) invented by Rosser Reeves in the 1940s. Reeves applied the concept to advertising rather than to business as a whole. He believed that advertisements should sell and that to do so an advert needed to:

  • make a proposition to the reader: Buy this product for this benefit
  • the proposition should be distinguishable from competitors by being something that a competitor does not, or cannot, offer so therefore a unique offer
  • the offer needs to be strong enough to get people to take the action you want them to take i.e. buy, so should therefore sell

You can see therefore that it is the offer that has to be unique. This is a very different concept to thinking that your whole business or even one product or service has to be unique. Your product maybe very popular in the USA but you may be the only distributor in the UK which means that, whilst the product is not unique, you do have a unique selling proposition. You may not be the only pharmacist in town but you may be the only one open 24/7, therefore you have a unique offer.

The trick is to sell your unique offer without using the word

At least this builder is trying to find an angle.

At least this builder is trying to find an angle.

So try and find another way to describe what makes you, your product or service different. You could try an alternative word or phrase such as:

  • bespoke
  • original
  • rare
  • distinctive
  • exclusive
  • one-off
  • purpose built
  • personal
  • tailor made

Alternatively you could try to sum up your point of difference in a sentence or two of persuasive marketing copy. John Lewis sum up their offer in ‘Never knowingly undersold’, it’s immediately clear what is different about their business. Another good example would be Fedex’s ‘when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight’, or Bose’s ‘better sound through research’. An old Timex slogan, ‘it takes a licking but still keeps on ticking’ describes the robustness of the watch in a few, well chosen words. Apple has built it’s business on the principle of ‘Think Different’ Another good old one was Opal Fruit’s ‘Made to make your mouth water’. None of these are incapable of imitation but they are so owned by the brands that any attempt to copy is likely to result in legal action.

How can you develop an offer which you can ‘own’; an offer that sets you apart from your competitors; an offer which appeals to your target market? How can you communicate this offer without using the word ‘unique’? This is a topic we’ll be developing in my Plan for Results programme which launches soon. Find out more here.

Glenda Shawley helps owners of small businesses understand what matters to their customers and then communicate this in a way that turns suspects into prospects, prospects into customers and customers into fans.

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One thought on “Unique is an over used word!

  1. Plenty to think about here and some good points raised. I don’t use unique, I tend to say “bespoke” “tailor made” “personal” “to suit you” and “experience” are words that set me apart from others in my geographical area and in my networks but there are many of us outside my networks, nationwide and worldwide. Funnily enough something I have just thought about is that unique selling points is nearly always said or written in the plural suggesting that it is a combination of factors that make your business unique rather than just one.

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