A Clear Choice
Understanding the Brand Value Proposition
Every company and every product wants to be “the brand of choice”. They seek to be in a position of universal preference. A position that customers will shift their loyalties to and be an advocate for. A position that is clearly distinctive, meaningful, beneficial, and clearly sustainable. That is the role of the Brand Value Proposition.
It should not, however, be confused with the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) whose job it is to promote product features, price, selection, availability, or other benefits seen to have tangible and more immediate value. The USP essentially serves to make a claim relative to a competitive position for a given market period primarily through advertising or other promotional means. Home Depot promotes the fact that “More Saving. More Doing” will stretch your home improvement dollar further.
Verizon “Better Matters” or National Car Rental: “Go Like a Pro” are both selling propositions that seek to amplify why they are a better option than their competitors. The USP also has to adjust and adapt to change in the marketplace to stay current with trends. The current Domino’s “Carry Out Insurance” replaced their older guaranteed 30-minute delivery. Burger King is drawing on its heritage with its “Flamed Grilled Since 1954” over its long standing “Have it Your Way” campaign.
Brand Value Propositions, on the other hand, are intended to define what is inherently unique about the brand for the long term. It is an extension of the mission through how it will deliver on the vision, in part, by virtue of its competitive distinction. It is not necessarily a slogan or might not even show up in an advertising campaign. It resides within the brand platform in concert with the vision, mission, and brand promise.
The Brand Value Proposition needs to do 4 things:
- Target. The Brand Value Proposition needs to identify who is the “ideal target audience”. Targeting a specific customer segment could be, in and of itself, a differentiator by virtue of engaging with a segment that is being underserved by competitors in the category. BMWi3 targets customers who traditionally would purchase a luxury car but want to be eco-friendly.
- Offer. The Brand Value Proposition also needs to define what business the organization is in through what is being offered to its ideal target audience. Starbucks obviously sells coffee but one might argue that what it really sells is the experience. Amazon sells products or does it really sell convenience?
- Benefit. Whatever is being offered has to have value with the target audience who needs to understand what the benefit is to them. It is a benefit that needs to be meaningful and relevant. A benefit can be a tangible feature or have intangible worth. It could be the benefit of working with a company that you have more confidence in or share values with. Customers might see the benefit of the Paul Newman brand as the profits that go to support charities. A benefit of Fairmont Hotels and Resorts is the distinctive experience of each of their landmark properties.
- Advantage. The most important component of the Brand Value Proposition is what it is that the organization provides that is truly different from its competitors and something that none of them could replicate. This can be challenging because companies often copy and/or improve on the ideas of someone else. But some things cannot be replicated. The design style of George Jensen, the heritage of Rolex, or the personality of Virgin are all sustainable advantages that would be impossible to reproduce.
Most importantly, the Brand Value Proposition needs to be honest.
In many ways, it is a promise that the company claims is unique to them only relative to what it offers, the benefit it provides, and why it is a better choice. It must be true to who the brand is — that will lead to loyal customers and powerful brand advocates for the foreseeable life of the brand. Claiming something untrue will quickly erode trust, confidence, and impact financial performance.
Firms fail to realize that propositions presented in the boardroom are too rarely delivered to customers. The promises you keep, not the ones you make, determine growth.”¹
A true Brand Value Proposition that is clearly unique and distinctive has real tangible value. A study conducted by Millward Brown on the most valuable brands showed that those brands that had a brand proposition that consumers felt were unique and distinctive showed a combined value of growth of 168% over 10 years¹.
The marketing of a brand through advertising or other means may promote a particular USP at any given time but must ensure that it does not contradict the Brand Value Proposition. The Millward Brown study showed that consumers felt that brands with excellent advertising but a weaker brand proposition underperformed strong brand propositions and only grew by 27%. Marketing initiatives are no better than the underlying meaning and value of the brand.
The Big Idea around the Brand is more important than the Big Idea around your marketing campaign”²
This does not mean that the advertising campaign is unimportant, but it does mean that great advertising is only as good as the brand it promotes. The Brand Value Proposition is the foundation for strategically amplifying the brand through marketing, advertising, slogans, social media, retailing, and other channels. It is not only important to how the brand is positioned in the marketplace, but also important for those responsible for delivering on what the brand promises. At Diverge Branding we not only help in crafting the brand for the long term, but we also help with building an internal understanding of the brand so that all stakeholders are equipped to deliver on its unique Brand Value Proposition throughout its entire BrandLife™.