By accident I came across an older blog post defending the creation and even focus on developing a USP . Ironically that sparked a series of thoughts leading me to the believe that the USP is indeed dead.
The picture of the unique Apple which is clearly different and immediately stands out of the crowd of all the other apples made the point. I would just NOT buy that red apple. Now you may say well this is just a symbol for being different maybe exaggerating the situation. Is it really? I think it is a perfect example. And here is why:
If you are different you need to explain the difference. The more different you are the more explanation is necessary. In times where nobody is listening to a vendor or producer but only to recommendations from early users, trusted friends etc. the producer just doesn’t have that voice or marketing power anymore. Now consider a very large organization – take Procter&Gamble for the sake of the discussion. You would think they have infinite marketing power. Well – a) today even they don’t, given a 3 Billion consumer market around the world and b) about 1 billion of the three billion share their stories in the social web – there is no company big enough anymore to overshadow the voice of that 1 billion people.
Whether you like Darwin or not, but one discovery is very interesting: It is not the outstanding leader that survives long term but the average and very adaptable species. If we look for green apples, we may still look for the nicest of them but would not want that outstanding, different red apple. If we look for a piece of software, we want that easy to use and just practical tool that many already recommend and not that USP loaded super duper tool that is all different.
The game changer in the USP discussion however is Social Media. If you have a product where you need to survive based on a one or more USPs, it is probably not going to cut it since all the people who use that product need to be able to communicate all the differences and it is not likely to happen.
Now – obviously there are those types of products that stand out but they will either be pretty quickly mainstream or live in a difficult niche market. Apple lived quite a while in a difficult niche market. Now the iPhone stood out for a while but quickly became the mainstream product that everybody has to have :)
Obviously this thought may spark very different and very controversial discussions – but I guess it is worth thinking about.