Unique Selling Proposition vs Dumb Slogans

By: Dan Kennedy on: October 6th, 2009 26 Comments

I was reading an extensive survey to measure the impact of advertising slogans. Among the slogans and advertising tag lines for 22 of the biggest U.S. advertisers, only 6 were recognized by more than 10% of the consumers surveyed.

In other words, not even 1 out of 10 consumers could correctly identify 90% of the slogans. 16 of the 22 advertisers had slogans no one knew – each spending more than 100-million dollars a year advertising them!

Three of these much advertised slogans scored 0% recognition. 0%!

Take the test, see if you can name any of the big, dumb companies that match these slogans:

  1. We’re With You
  2. That Was Easy
  3. The Stuff Of Life

Only Wal-Mart’s “Always Low Prices” was recognized by 64% of the consumers tested. (And by the way, if you can’t have the lowest prices, you might as well be the highest. Not much cache in “Almost Always Almost Lowest Prices Most Days”.)

Those faring poorly, like #1 above, argued that they’d only been advertising their slogan for YEARS!!!! – and, quote, “it takes time to build brand identity.” #3’s spokesman justified their disaster as “ only a transitional slogan”, stating they were moving toward yet another new brand-focused identity, whatever the beejeezus that is. Translation: new slogan being thunk up.

The real laughter is that the copy of this article was from USA TODAY’s web site, and at its end, two companies paid to advertise their services, doing, yep, “corporate branding.”

Is A Slogan A Brand? Isn’t A Slogan just Like A USP?

No, a slogan is not a brand, and these results are not exactly an indictment of all brand-building approaches.

For example, the kind of “personal branding” I teach encompasses more than a slogan, and is usually more targeted to a market.

However it’s easy to have that go awry and wind up with branding that looks good but does nothing. There’s a tightrope to walk there, and it’s easy to fall off. Most ad agency types do.

A slogan is definitely NOT a USP, although it can represent, telegraph or at least be congruent with a USP in your small business marketing.

Actually, Wal-Mart’s is the only slogan in all the ones tested via this survey that enunciates a USP. It is, not coincidentally, the only effective slogan. The others not only fail the Dan Kennedy USP Question#1 (Why should I, your prospect, choose to do business with you versus any and every other option?), they also are so generic they could be used by anybody.

For example, “That Was Easy” could certainly work for Boston Market – how easy it is to put a ‘home cooked’ dinner on the family table, or for DiTech – how easy it is to get a home loan.

Warning: if anybody and everybody can use your USP, it ain’t one.

If any and every Tom, Dick and Mary can use your slogan, why on earth would you want it?

In each of these cases, the minute the ad agency charlatans revealed these slogans in the corporate clients’ boardrooms, the CEO’s should have stood up, pulled out a gun, shot one of them somewhere it would really hurt and bleed a lot but not kill him, and yelled “Next.”

This is the kind of chronic stupidity I encountered when working with big, dumb companies like Weight Watchers and Mass Mutual. (Incidentally, Weight Watchers could use any of the above three dead bang loser slogans. Mass could use two of them. And probably would.)

Every company behind these losers had a spokesperson ready with an excuse. Nobody said, truthfully, “We’re idiots.”


Dan Kennedy is internationally recognized as the 'Millionaire Maker,' helping people in just about every category of business turn their ideas into fortunes. Dan's "No B.S." approach is refreshing amidst a world of small business marketing hype and enriches those who act on his advice. For more money-making marketing tips, tactics and strategies, go to www.GKIC.com

26 Responses

  1. Rob Anspach says:

    … in my cleaning biz … I had used the USP – ” The most thorough cleaning ever…guaranteed” — but I found after a few years every other cleaner was using it too… so I felt it no longer was as effective as it could be… so I changed it to “Clean…guaranteed!” … now after a few years more cleaners are adapting to the simpler USP…

    … and Geico’s “So easy a caveman can do it” – could be used for 90% of all companies out there… infact I mention it on my website.

    … or Avis’ “We try harder”… or Nike’s “Just do it”… or L’Oreal’s “Because I’m worth it” … the list goes on.

  2. Thanks for writing about USP vs. slogans. Any advice on how to discover your USP? [Being fairly new to Kennedy-Glazer, I’m still working on that one!]

  3. jonas says:

    I hope i never have to say “we’re idoit’s”

  4. I have been consulting Country clubs and they think their USP is good service! Ha! what a laugher.

  5. What do you all think of this USP?

    “Stop Slicing, Five Swings Guaranteed!”

  6. Should I get a logo and slogan? I have not had one ever.

  7. Got 3 hits to my website from this blog last week. 2 of them were mine. Is anybody looking at the commenters websites?

  8. Rob Anspach says:

    Scott – as to your websites hits … if they aint buying – hits dont mean squat.
    I know so many people who think “hits” to websites is a big thing … but if hits dont translate to sales than it really is a mute point… case in point, a local hardware store had a million hits on the website last year but only had $1000 in online sales and only $25,000 from (from offline) people who said they went to the website first then came into the store… that money didn’t even pay the electric bill for the year.

  9. Rob’s got a point. The man who built a well known hypnosis brain technology site (which still looks like crap) doesn’t care what his site looks like. He made $8,000,000.00 with it, and refuses to change it–even though he can afford it. Joel Bauer, the Infotainer, also says, be Effective, not fancy. Who cares; if it works it works. Remember the two second micro-attention span of your customer. If it takes three seconds to download, they are G O N E ! already.

    Stage Hypnotist Simone
    Las Vegas

  10. Chesha Hale says:

    Trying to understand the terminology of all this new ways marketing. I need clarification on USP??? I know I will understand as time goes on. This was a Great Article though!!!

  11. Chesha Hale says:

    I received another Swipe & Deploy!! I can’t wait to test this out…It’s the Turnkey Thanksgiving Card!!! This should be exciting. I sent out Thanksgiving cards to my clients one year…just to say “Happy Thanksgiving”! I included a coupon to receive $15 in free product…no one took advantage of it. Now that I am a part of Glazier-Kennedy membership, I know whatever I try will bring results…

  12. Brian says:


    USP is your Unique Selling Proposition. Dan describes it as “Why should I, your prospect, choose to do business with you versus any and every other option?”

    Basically…what sets you apart from ALL your competition…and why people should choose to do business with you.

  13. Brian, Keep it coming. You’re awesome.

    I thought USP was a package delivery service. 😉

    How was your event?

    Stage Hypnotist Simone
    King of Sway

  14. I love that the big dudes like Brian are here posting and not just consulting to the rich and famous. Social Media has changed the landscape for everyone. I’m so grateful for it.

    Stage Hypnotist Simone
    King of Sway

  15. Rob Anspach says:

    …huh? whats social media?
    I got that response yesterday when I was in an antique shop…
    … I gave up explaning when I realized he didn’t even have a computer.

    Nope… Geico’s slogan doesnt apply… ” So easy a caveman could do it”!

    If the client doesnt have an open mind to new things – there is nothing that will change the way they make, sell or run the business.

  16. perception is a fascinating element of denial.

  17. Chesha:

    Welcome to “Planet Dan”! Congratulations on TAKING ACTION and putting a proven GKIC strategy to work for you!

    Dan goes into more detail on how to craft a winning USP in his “Ultimate Marketing Plan” and “The New Magnetic Marketing For The Emerging Economy”.

    For forward-thinking entrepreneurs and sales pros in the Chicago area, I provide a monthly free Fast Start Workshop, which includes an exercise where I work with all the participants to create their own winning USP right there.

    For those not near Chicago: Go to the http://www.DanKennedy.com website to find the local GKIC chapter near you!

  18. Can I start a GKIC chapter in Vegas? What’s involved?

    Stage Hypnotist Simone

  19. Rob Anspach says:

    I’m thinking maybe I should start one in Lancaster County PA … the Amish really need some help. (some have cell phones dont ya know!)

  20. Amish are a gas. I love em. BUY their Furniture!

  21. Rob Anspach says:

    I have already…

  22. Steve Wilson says:

    That’s great!, however the question still stands…

    Where is the list with the cheatsheet answers? I feel left haning out to dry… nice carrot!

  23. Sorry, Simone — Richelle Shaw beat you to it: http://www.GKICLasVegas.com

    She’s amazing; you really should go to her next meeting and meet her.

    Tell her I said hello. Thanks.

  24. Thanks, Steve, I just registered for the meeting at GKIC Las Vegas. Wow, what a resume Richelle has.

  25. Rob Anspach says:

    if I lived in Vegas – I would all over that meeting… man I need to start something like that in Lancaster PA

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