Graphic: Rabbit Holes

Your USP Might Not Be So U – Different vs Distinct

Make Your Unique Selling Proposition Unique By Being More You.

Differentiation Or Distinction

Many execs define their Unique Selling Proposition (USP) using terms related to quality, service, or price. That’s a problem. Those can be copied, or taken away. A thing is UNIQUE if it is the only one of its kind. Nothing can be more or less unique. There is no way to be uniquer.

Differentiation ≠ Uniqueness

A competitor can match (or beat) your:

  • quality
  • price
  • service
  • design
  • process

A smaller phone maker can riff off a larger phone maker’s designs. Car makers can mimic the appearance of luxury car makers. Any number of companies can aim to match the safety of Volvo, the reliability of Honda, the rebellion of Harley-Davidson, the design of Apple, etc.

What those imitative companies can’t quite do is match the brand reputation of the company they mimic. They can match the difference. But they can’t get past the distinction.

What Does a Potato Sound Like?

Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha all make v-twin power-cruiser motorcycles that match the look, feel, and sound of a Harley Davidson. They sell too. But they don’t sell to Harley riders.

Why not? They meet or exceed what many might think of as the differences:

  •  They have v-twin motors.
  • They look very similar.
  • They make a ‘potato-potato-potato-potato’ sound when they idle.
  • The reliability of the pretender bikes is known to be better, and
    their owners are much more likely to have a good dealer experience than the Harley buyers.

Matching the differences—even showing the advantages—doesn’t overcome the perception among many that the non-Harley bikes aren’t “real” — whatever that means.

Harley-Davidson is DISTINCTIVE. They don’t make bikes that aren’t Harleys. Even the new PanAmerica adventure bike and LiveWire electric bikes are obviously from the same brand that brought you the Softail.

Honda et al make loads of other styles of bikes, from dirt bikes to side-by-sides, to hyper-fast track bikes. Their models fill the gamut; Harley keeps making Harleys. The intagibles that make a Harley a Harley is the Distinction. No one who is seriously shopping for a Road King suddenly bolts to a Goldwing.

Notably, the Goldwing has a massive following of its own (and rightly so). So do bikes like Kawa’s KLR, the Suzuki Hayabusa, and the Yamaha FJR. When the bikes are distinctive, they attract a following among the people who value that distinction. This gives us some insight.

If we create distinction, we outperform similar competition.

Overcome Overwhelming Odds With Distinction

Perhaps the best thing a young or small market-share company can do is double down on distinctive. Ducati is an example of a boutique brand that does Ducati things in a Ducati way. Ducati is distinctively Ducati. It’s brash, bold, and quirkily Italian. It’s distinct.

Branding takes a company from different to distinct.

I highly recommend both of the Byron Sharp books for detailed looks at the how’s and why’s. See my affiliate links below: 


What companies do you see doing things in a distinct rather than different way? How are you creating your distinction?

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