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Monday, Mar. 30, 2009 at 9:10 am

UVP or Tagline?

By Jeff Sexton
March 30th, 2009

Bryan Eisenberg was recently asked the following question via e-mail:

“I know you are very busy, but I would like your help. I have read your blog(s) about Unique Value Proposition over and over (and others too).  I am perplexed.  How do you distinguish between a Unique Value Propostion and tag line. For example Fedex, ‘When it absolutely positively has to be there overnight’ – tagline or UVP?
Your site ‘Keep Your Goals On Target: Increase Conversions, Get More Sales, and More Leads’ – is this your UVP? ‘Market Better’ – your tagline?

Could you help?  Maybe a blog on this.

Thanks.  I would really appreciate it.”

So Bryan and I thought we’d share my quick and dirty response to that question:

UVP is just a modification of the term, Unique Selling Proposition (USP), created by Rosser Reeves.  According to his book, Reality in Advertising, the requirements of a USP are:

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

The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot, or does not, offer. It must be unique—either a uniqueness of brand or a claim not otherwise made in that particular field.

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

Notice that there’s no requirement for a Unique Value (or Selling) Proposition to be pithy or memorable.  A UVP simply has to speak to the buyer in the language of the buyer about what matters to the buyer – in a way that differentiates your offer from everyone else’s.

But a tagline does have to be short and memorable.  Great taglines should incorporate or touch upon the UVP in the way that “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands” totally encapsulates the UVP of M&Ms.  Yet there are many taglines that don’t.

“We’re #2, we try harder” may be a great tagline, but it’s arguable as to whether or not it’s really (or still) a UVP.  It’s basically an implied claim of better service, and was likely only effective because of the “bold” admission (for it’s day) of an uncomfortable corporate truth.  Or at least that AND a lot of substantiating evidence (everyone remembers the  campaign but few ever mention the reality of improved service which accompanied that campaign).  Once the reality of better service went away, the UVP element of the tagline evaporated.  But the tagline remains.

On the not so great end of the spectrum, you’ve got “Quality is Job 1.”  Or “Fly the friendly skies.”  Or “I’m Lovin’ It”.  Bland corporate taglines that contain nary a hint of UVP.

In short, a reasonably substantiated answer to the question, “why do business with us and not the other guy,” is a  UVP.  A tagline could (and probably should) be a short, catchy summary of the UVP, but there are plenty of taglines that aren’t.

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Comments (30)

  1. I really have never been comfortable with my tagline-UVP. So I changed it a few months back to just a UVP.

    Honestly, it took me a while to understand the difference between the two. I still need to reword-rework the UVP I have now but I think it is closer to what I need.

  2. This is a great question. While I agree with the above response, it has been my experience that in practice it is better to err on the side of working to find a pithy articulation of your UVP (or USP, or as I call it your core brand promise). This is not always easy, but the journey is worth the pain. You could argue that an inability to state your promise in a pithy manner is an indicator that your promise may benefit from simplification. The more complicated your promise, the harder it is to communicate. In managing campaigns, I banned to phrase tag line because I observed my Agencies not being disciplined enough in their treatment of the line. Instead, I dubbed it a “brand line” to emphasize the connection with the core brand promise. My feeling is that the more disciplined you are with your brand line, the more on strategy your entire creative will be. Difficulty in pithy articulation is an excuse in my book, not a reason to remove the constraint of having the line communicate your brand promise. You’ll be amazed at the difference a strategically focused brand line does to your communication.

  3. Great question and equally good answer. This has got to be one of the harder aspects of marketing (online or off) It is very clear to me just how important and influential a UVP is – but no always so clear how to articulate it. I also agree with Edward Burghard when he stated that a pithy tag line is often a cop out. If you cannot express your unique selling proposition I can guarantee your customers won’t be able to either. One of the most valuable aspects to a UVP is the refer factor. A good UVP makes it easier for people to refer the benefits of what you offer which is much more likely to end up as a sale than a tag line. M&M’s might “melt in your mouth but not in your hand” but a comment like “throw some in vanilla ice cream for a dessert to die for” makes the sale

  4. Thanks for all the great ideas and relevant feedback. The big question, why aren’t people buying from you? What exactly are you doing wrong? How do you turn interested prospects into invested clients? You see most people hate to be sold and hate to sell. They feel down right sleezy. Making sense of all the “marketing buzzwords” like branding, differentiation, product positioning, USP, UVP, target market,etc..how and when to use which tool for maximum impact? It all depends on your market and many other factors, too many to list here. That’s why it’s critical to do your own homework in understanding what your target market wants, and are already buying in order to align with their language, mindset and value. The UVP would reflect all of the above, especially what they value most in buying to get better results or benefits. In other words, anytime you try to artifically create a logical UVP, it rarely works because almost all buying decisions are emotional. That’s my two cents worth…

  5. Very good question from Bryan. Haven’t heard about UVP before; only USP.

    I guess one’s UVP would be evolving as time goes by since customers’ want, needs and buying patterns changes.

    Do you think a business should change taglines every often (once every 2 or 5 years)?

  6. [...] price matching is no substitute for a unique selling proposition / unique value proposition. And don’t confuse Unique Value Proposition with your tagline / slogan either! « How Much is Your Coupon Code Box Costing [...]

  7. [...] price matching is no substitute for a unique selling proposition / unique value proposition. And don’t confuse Unique Value Proposition with your tagline / slogan [...]

  8. Keep Your Goals On Target: Increase Conversions, Get More Sales, and More Leads’ – is this your UVP then nice…

  9. Thank you for clarifying…

    In my business I would go for a great UVP.

  10. If you cannot express your unique selling proposition I can guarantee your customers won’t be able to either. One of the most valuable aspects to a UVP is the refer factor

  11. I think UVP is a mandatory prerequisite to get huge success in any kind of business.

  12. Choosing an effective UVP is a challenging task.

  13. Great answer and choosing the right UVP is key for a growing business.

  14. Very good question from Bryan. Haven’t heard about UVP before; only USP.

  15. You can hand out stickers with your logo, name and business tagline. Design your stickers with compelling graphics and make copies that your clients will want to keep. Beautiful flowers, cute garden gnomes or flamingos, and bonsai plants are some of the things that you can use as inspiration for your sticker designs.

  16. why you go with the tagline ??? any reason ?

  17. Prefer tagline for the up coming asset.

  18. Great ideas!

  19. Prefer most probably tagline.

  20. Thanks for this information

  21. I also agree with Edward Burghard when he stated that a pithy tag line is often a cop out. If you cannot express your unique selling proposition I can guarantee your customers won’t be able to either.

  22. I believe tagline would be a better choice over uvp

  23. The UVP would reflect all of the above, especially what they value most in buying to get better results or benefits. In other words, anytime you try to artifically create a logical UVP, it rarely works because almost all buying decisions are emotional.

  24. Amazing information

  25. I think some of you missed the point. That a UVP is not simply a catchy phrase. But a unique and irresistable offering to the potential consumer.

  26. They have positioned themselves as the industry leader in overnight shipping. Another effective UVP is Walmart’s: “Everyday low prices”. In most consumers’ minds, if you want the lowest price on an item, you go to Walmart. Walmart is positioned as the low cost leader in retail.

  27. I believe that you are correct when you argue that a UVP must be necessarily unique. The problem then becomes how one defines uniqueness. The language used may be somewhat unique even though the ideas expressed need not necessarily be so.

  28. I think UPV is better. Thanks for the great post!

  29. UVP all the way! UVP is better. Thanks for sharing this information.

  30. UVP seems to come be an essential with every large business, for example Tesco and their “every little helps” or even more obscure the Asda patting of the back pocket to indicate getting some change back from your weekly shop!

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Jeff is a Persuasion Architect, Web copywriter, blogger, and instructor of FutureNow's Persuasive Online Copywriting workshop. Follow Jeff Sexton on twitter

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