Unique Selling Point

The unique selling point is a marketing term that goes back to the American advertising specialist Rosser Reeves. Unique selling point refers to the unique features of an offer that differs from other offers on the market.

The term unique selling proposition is used synonymously. The acronym USP stand for both. The principle of the USP can also be applied to other areas such as politics or art.


The term “unique selling proposition” or USP is a marketing basic today. USP was mentioned by Rosser Reeves in a marketing strategy in 1940. Rosser assumes that it is becoming more and more difficult to market a product due to ever-increasing competition and market penetration. He mentioned toothpaste as an example.

In his book “Reality in Advertising” from 1961 he created the theoretical justification for the unique selling proposition. The author assumes that a retailer gives his customer a “sales promise” for products or services. By making use of advertising, in other words, the unique selling proposition, he ensures maximum penetration with this promise to sell.

The unique selling proposition should therefore be formulated in such a way as to communicate what distinguishes the product or service from all other products or services competing on the market. The USP is supposed to represent the purchasing decision and thus trigger the purchase impulse in potential customers.

What makes Reeves’ work for the advertising agency Ted Bates & Co. special was that Reeves not only defined the USP theoretically, but also demonstrated its effectiveness through product tests and market surveys.

Reeves repeatedly emphasizes in his standard work that the USP must ultimately always be followed so that the advertiser has success in the long run. The second goal, in addition to a successful sale, must therefore always be customer satisfaction. Reeves has also been able to prove this fact in numerous field tests.

Today, the USP is one of the integral component of a marketing or branding strategy and can also be part of a SWOT Analysis.

What does a USP consist of?

The USP or the unique selling point can be defined at product and service level. The USP is the key aspect of an advertising campaign. Possible USPs are listed here:

  • The particular form of a product: Some furniture traders advertise exclusively with the design (such as who’s-perfect)
  • The special features of a product: a common example are most smartphone manufacturers
  • Technical innovations: formerly ABS in cars; the hydraulic suspension in Citroën cars, etc.
  • Special materials: in 2013, sweaters made of Alpaca wool
  • In German, beer brewed according to the Beer Purity Law
  • The seal “Made in Germany”
  • The cheapest price
  • Special know-how

Limitations of the unique selling point

The USP is particularly important when it comes to market launch, in order to emphasize the uniqueness of a product. However, within a short time many other products may be placed on the market with the same USP, but for a cheaper price. In such a case, the USP may need to be redefined. Sometimes additional USPs can supplement the actual USP. This would be, for example, if you combine “Made in Germany” and “favorable price” for a product.