A heroic effort to find a USP

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September 24, 2011

In recent posts I’ve been arguing that the concept of the USP is past its sell by date – because finding anything that’s truly unique about your offering is mighty tough these days.

However, after a hard day’s blogging, I went to the seaside for a breath of fresh air (and near us, at Burnham-on-Sea, it is very fresh) and got a surprise – I saw a business that had made heroic efforts to unearth a genuine USP for itself.

Britain’s ugliest seaside resort?

Let’s put this context.  Burnham-on-Sea, as the name suggests, is on the sea.  Occasionally.  When the tide is out it is Burnham-on-Mud.  A bit like Weston-super-Mare, only less posh (I mean, when you have a name in latin, you know it’s a cultured place, right?).   Also, just across the estuary from Burnham is the Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station.  So any business on the seafront here has a few things stacked against it.

Undaunted, however, the pier has a sign which proclaims it to be “Britain’s shortest pier”.  Wow, a genuine USP.  Whether this is actually a positive is debatable – it’s a bit like “Britain’s lowest mountain” or “Britain’s smallest beach”.  But maybe less really is more?

You have to take your kiss-me-quick hat off to whoever had the boldness to come up with this slogan.  But they’ve not stopped there.  Sensing that this proposition was a little underwhelming they decided to employ a bit of CRM.  Not Customer Relationship Management, but Cause Related Marketing (dontcha just love acronyms?  There’s over 250 CRM acronyms listed on acronym finder, from Capital and Risk Markets to Converts to Microsoft)

All the best brands are doing it

If you’re not familiar with Cause Related Marketing get hold of the book “Brand Spirit” by Hamish Pringle and Marjorie Thompson.  This tells you that “Cause Related Marketing (CRM) can be defined as a strategic positioning tool which links a company or brand to a relevant charity or cause in a partnership for mutual benefit.”  Avon cosmetics was one of the first to use this tactic, supporting a breast cancer charity back in 1992.  Other examples include Hovis supporting the Royal British Legion,  Tesco and Race for Life, and AquAid and Christian Aid.

So how has the diminutive tourist attraction harnessed the power of Cause Related Marketing? By declaring that “Britain’s shortest pier is supporting Britain’s biggest heroes” (Help for heroes).  It’s easy to poke fun (and I’m not always able to resist the temptation) but I’d say these guys are doing a pretty good job of promoting something that would leave most marketing experts completely stumped.

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