Bob Bly Direct Response Copywriter Official Banner

The 3-Part Formula for a Winning USP

July 26th, 2010 by Bob Bly

In 1961, Rosser Reeves published his classic book Reality in Advertising in which he introduced the notion of the Unique Selling Proposition, or USP.

Today the book is out of print and difficult to get. As a result, most practicing direct marketers don’t know the original definition of a USP. Their lack of knowledge often produces USPs that are weak and ineffective.

According to Reeves, there are three requirements for a USP (and I am quoting, in the italics, from Reality in Advertising directly):

1. Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer. Each must say, “Buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit.”

Your headline must contain a benefit — a promise to the reader.

2. The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot, or does not, offer.

Here’s where the “unique” in Unique Selling Proposition comes in. It is not enough merely to offer a benefit. You must also differentiate your product.

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

The differentiation cannot be trivial. It must be a difference that is very important to the reader.

In general advertising for packaged goods, marketers achieve differentiation by building a strong brand at a cost of millions or even billions of dollars.

Coca Cola has an advantage because of its brand. If you want a cola, you can get it from a dozen soda makers. But if you want a Coke, you can only get it from Coca Cola.

Intel has achieved a similar brand dominance, at an extraordinary cost, with its Pentium line of semiconductors.

Most direct marketers are too small, and have too strong a need to generate an immediate positive ROI from their marketing, to engage in this kind of expensive brand building. So we use other means to achieve the differentiation in our USP.

One popular method is to differentiate your product or service from the competition based on a feature that your product or service has and they don’t.

The easiest situation in which to create a strong USP is when your product has a unique feature — one that competitors lack — that delivers a strong benefit.

This must be an advantage the customer really cares about. Not one that, though a difference, is trivial.

But what if such a proprietary advantage does not exist? What if your product is basically the same as the competition, with no special features?

Reeves has the answer here too. He said the uniqueness can either stem from a strong brand (already discussed as an option 95% of marketers can’t use) or from a claim not otherwise made in that particular form of advertising — that is, other products may have this feature too, but advertisers haven’t told consumers about it.

An example from packaged goods advertising: “M&Ms melt in your mouth, not in your hand.”

Once M&M established this claim as their USP, what could the competition do? Run an ad that said, “We also melt in your mouth, not in your hand!”

One more point: As direct marketers, we — unlike most general advertisers today — are compelled to create advertising that generates net revenues in excess of its cost.

Reeves believed all advertising had to do this. He defined advertising as “the art of getting a USP into the heads of the most people at the lowest possible cost.”


This entry was posted on Monday, July 26th, 2010 at 1:42 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

51 responses about “The 3-Part Formula for a Winning USP”

  1. Ray Edwards said:

    Bob, this is one of the best and simplest explanations of the USP I have seen anywhere. Bravo!

  2. Ryan Healy said:

    Great summary, Bob. I actually picked up a copy of Reality in Advertising a couple years ago. At the time, it was $100 + shipping. And, yes, it’s hard to find, though well worth getting and reading.

  3. Note Taking Nerd #2 said:

    A technology USP example I saw of late was used by Motorola in the midst of the Iphone 4 “Death Grip” drama.

    For those who aren’t smart phone geeks like me, and don’t keep up with all the news related to them, quickly, here’s what happened…

    Apple released the Iphone 4 and the problem people were running into was that if their hand touched the left bottom corner of the outside of the phone, where a left-handed person would naturally cup it, the reception DIED and your calls would drop.

    Motorola ran a full page ad in one of the humongo newspapers that showed a big picture of their new smartphone, the Droid X, and in the blurb of ad copy, they gave the standard Madison Avenue feature run down of it but what stood out to me was that they included a line that said, “The Droid X; The smartphone you can hold it however you want.”

    I thought it was genius. What would’ve taken the ad to brilliant status would’ve been them using that for their headline.

  4. Codrut Turcanu said:

    any idea if Claude Hopkins knew about the concept before?

  5. Is your USP a Marketing Must—or a Mad Men Memento? | MarketCopywriter Blog said:

    […] the legendary adman provided some USP leeway, as noted in a recent post by Bob Bly. Reeves allowed you could create a USP by making a claim “not otherwise made in that particular […]

  6. shoesofficial said:

    Our Company Wholesale Cheap Bags:
    Chanel Bags, Chloe Bags, Coach Bags, LV Bags, D&G Bags, ED Hardy Bags, Fendi Bags, Gucci Bags, Juicy Bags, Christian Audigier Bags, Guess Bags, Prada Bags, Tous Bags, Marc Jacobs Bags, Dior Bagss, Versace Bagss, Burberry Bags, Etc.
    Welcome To Visit Our Website ShoesOfficial com/

  7. Dave Saunders said:

    Great summary of the real origins of USP. It’s funny how many such concepts have been diluted as people present them in more modern works.

  8. How Real Estate Investors Create a Strong USP said:

    […] of the best formulas for developing a USP is from master copywriter, Bob Bly. Bly says your USP must have three […]

  9. Andre Hayward said:

    Hello Bob,

    Thanks for sharing this excerpt. You’ve totally helped to demistify the concept of creating a USP.
    I will follow this blog from now on.

    Peace & Much Success,
    Andre Hayward

  10. Buy Hugo Boss said:

    Buy Hugo Boss…

    […]The 3-Part Formula for a Winning USP – blog – direct marketing blog[…]…

  11. Apryl Rayno said:

    I am really loving the theme/design of your site. Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility issues? A handful of my blog visitors have complained about my blog not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Firefox. Do you have any solutions to help fix this problem?

  12. Omar Delessio said:

    Stylish regarding grandma’s cupboard, Disney first considerations for any young people, as well as lost suggestions for getting started to help you just about any motor vehicle including Transponder tips, we have now you insured. Efficient a detailed services locksmith who’s that equipement along with products on hand to help make just about any key. As well as niche devices.

  13. funeral homes lancaster said:

    Can I simply say what a relief to find someone who truly knows what they’re talking about on the internet.

  14. golf club parma said:

    Pretty element of content. I just stumbled upon your blog and in accession capital to claim that I acquire actually enjoyed account your blog posts. Anyway I will be subscribing to your augment or even I fulfillment you get right of entry to consistently quickly.

  15. Sprawd? na said:

    Z jakiej przyczyny tak ma?o jest tre?ci w Necie, które pu?apem przynajmniej przypominaj? ten materia?? ?a?, jestem pod wra?eniem. Autor musi by? zajmuj?cym cz?owiekiem.

  16. brindes corporativos para sua campanha said:

    Printed, promotional mouse pad mats could add colour and visual stimulation for weary screen-eyes

  17. Errol Benedetti said:

    Mr. Elliott,
    Letters via USPS sounds so novel in the internet age even if it is just one letter produced for many, nonetheless it doesn’t sound like a pen-pal relationship. Can one write back into the author of your letter?

  18. Bob Manderon said:

    I was sondering about his thank you

  19. rita riya said:

    What did they actually revealed in the post? After reading it I could not understand what did they mean to us. I think they have initiated their new startups recently. It was about their recent works and launches. Try to make it in a more informative manner. Thanks for sharing the post. brake pads

  20. red ball said:

    If there are many sad stories, share it with the people you trust. Sharing helps people get closer together and you also relieve some of that sadness.
    Red Ball

  21. activate windows said:

    Do you want to activate windows 10 in your computer? activate windows
    Visit this website for windows activation

  22. kaspersky login said:

    Download antivirus programming for Windows (work areas, workstations, tablets) and secure yourself against infections, spyware, phishing and hazardous sites.

  23. kaspersky login said:

    Download antivirus programming for Windows (work areas, workstations, tablets) kaspersky login and secure yourself against infections, spyware, phishing and hazardous sites.

  24. Norton setup said:

    norton web security is generally utilized antivirus gives the least demanding to utilize and most intutive assurance for your PC and your mobiles .introduce it and disregard viruses,spyware,root-units, hackers.for more subtleties visit: Norton setup today.

  25. Norton setup said:

    norton web security is generally utilized antivirus gives the least demanding to utilize and most intutive assurance for your PC and your mobiles .introduce it and disregard viruses,spyware,root-units, hackers.for more subtleties visit: today.

  26. Norton setup said:

    Norton is the most solid antivirus and we are giving you the full help to get it introduced in your workstations and PCs.for more details visit: today.

  27. Norton setup said:

    Norton is the most solid antivirus and we are giving you the full help to get it introduced in your workstations and PCs.for more details visit: Norton setup today.

  28. activate office said:

    Ms Office suite offers a wide selection of products but to access a licensed version, you must have Office product key.After you exceed the free trial period, it becomes mandatory to purchase an Office setup product key. Get office setup here

  29. activate office 2016 said:

    office setup is the best software which is widely used in globe .It is a powerful service that helps you unleash your best ideas , get things done, and stay connected on the go.for more details visit:

  30. activate roku said:

    Activate, go to account enter Roku com link code displayed on Roku TV. My roku com link not working use new Roku code

  31. activate windows said:

    A window is a graphical interface part used to demonstrate the substance of an application for the customer to see and speak with. To activate windows activation and for more details click here.

  32. activate windows 10 said:

    A window is a graphical interface component used to show the substance of an application for the client to see and communicate with. For help download activate windows 10.

  33. amc activate said:

    AMC is an American pay television channel that is owned flagship property of AMC Networks. The channel’s programming, similar to that of FXM, primarily consists of theatrically released films, along with a limited amount of original programming. You can enjoy the AMC channel features by signing up at & enter the AMC activation code.

  34. said:

    AncestryDNA is the most up to date DNA test which causes you find hereditary relatives and extend your family history examine. Request your DNA test unit today.

  35. said:

    AncestryDNA is the newest DNA test which helps you find genetic relatives and expand your genealogy research. Order your DNA test kit is an easy-to-use tool for exploring your background. If you have an Ancestry family tree, the service can even find relatives among the 5 million DNA profiles it has already collected.

  36. office setup said:

    If customer needs to use the Office setup on the web, by then open the web program you are using on your system and visit office setup today.

  37. said:

    Antivirus is the need of PCs that makes them ailment free and we are going to give you full help to get the best antivirus showed in your PCs and workstations. Download norton antivirus store up with us today.

  38. office setup said:

    Microsoft Office suite contains reliably used ventures and organizations. The most used tasks of Microsoft Office are Word, a word taking care of program, Excel, a spreadsheet program, PowerPoint, a presentation maker, and Access, a database application.

  39. office setup said:

    Microsoft Office Setup is the complete suite of Microsoft limit programming as it joins a variety of jobs, servers, and affiliations like PowerPoint, Excel, Word, Outlook, Publisher, OneNote, and Access.

  40. iraqiranbiz said:

    ?????? ???

  41. iraniraqbiz said:


  42. kaspersky said:

    Kaspersky Anti-Virus features include real-time protection,detection and removal of viruses,trojans,worms,spyware, adware,keyloggers,malicious tools and auto-dialers click here for more details.

  43. said:

    It is a group of customer programming, server programming and administrations through this you can make professional looking records , outlines , counts, reports, and introduction in rapid and accuracy.if you need to introduce at that point visit our site.

  44. iolo login said:

    Cause a record and complete things, to have a huge amount of fun, and stay in touch. A free record gives you basic access to everything progressed. iolo login with our site to keep everything that you need in a condition of concordance on your device. Get free access to Office Online, Outlook, Skype, OneNote, OneDrive to say the very least. Have a huge amount of fun.

  45. norton download said:

    Norton Security also pays particular attention to others dangers on the network, and that’s why it offers a module, Identity Safe, to protect your personal information, passwords, and credit card details against any online scams.if you need to introduce norton download at that point visit our site.

  46. said:

    Great information you have shared here. It helped a lot and thanks for sharing such a valuable information.

  47. chung said:


    Nice writing! Very powerful. In your work, I feel the electricity in my wiring like the electricians Rochester ny trusts. I feel a safety inspection is needed because your writing is so energy like electrical contractor.

  48. moos7 said:

  49. xojinobdsf said:

    Here is our full guide to 2020 UFC 257 McGregor vs Poirier live or UFC 257 Live watching it on TV. How to live and watch Conor McGregor Poirier Fight Television, Radio and Online.

  50. One Dasty said:

    Bringing home a new puppy is a wonderful experience involving the whole family, which is why we begin training early to be overwhelming at first, but by offering our customers a great amount of support, we assist in the preparations to make it less stressful. To provide a completely different environment for our puppies, we thoroughly researched and make sure this puppies will only go to respectable families

  51. Abhi said:

    Nice content writing…thanks for sharing….

    Visit :

Leave a Reply