What’s Your Story?

The most successful businesses achieve some kind of distinction which sets them apart from their competitors. This is often referred to as a Unique Selling Proposition, or USP. A USP is the reason someone would choose one business over all others. So an important job for any business is to establish what makes it stand out in the minds of the public.

So maybe you’re thinking, “I have a good business, but it’s pretty much like my competitors.” But does the public really know what you do? It was the marketing legend Claude Hopkins who first showed a business only had to be unique in perception, not necessarily in fact.

In the early part of the Twentieth Century, Hopkins was hired to do the ad campaign for Schlitz beer. At the time the beer was only the fifth most popular in the country, but within months Hopkins’ campaign boosted sales to rival the best-selling beer.

So how did he do it? Was there something which made Schlitz unique? No. Ironically, Hopkins found a USP where there wasn’t one. And it all came about when he toured the brewery.

As Hopkins walked through the brewery he was amazed at all the care and precision which went into the brewing process. It started with the purest water from artesian wells going 4,000 feet deep. The processing pumps and pipes were cleaned twice a day to avoid contamination. Only white wood pulp was used to filter the beer. And each bottle was cleaned four times before filling.

Even the brewing yeast was special. The original yeast culture was the result of 1,200 experiments to get just the right flavor. And after the initial brewing, the beer was aged in special vats for six months.

So when the tour was over Hopkins asked the brewery manager why Schlitz had never told the public about how special their operation was. But the manager told Hopkins they did nothing different, all good breweries operated in the same way.

But Hopkins knew the public wasn’t aware of this. So because no brewer had explained the brewing process before, Schlitz could be the first. And by simply explaining the process in his ads, Hopkins established Schlitz beer as unique for it’s careful brewing method.

The power of the ads was demonstrated to Hopkins on a personal level when he met Cyrus Curtis, the publisher of the Ladies’ Home Journal. Curtis never drank beer and wouldn’t even let the words beer or wine appear in his magazine. So this attitude made it even more impressive when Curtis told Hopkins of what happened. One time while looking through a magazine at dinner, Curtis happened to read one of the Schlitz ads. The brewing description in the ad so impressed him, he actually ordered a bottle of Schlitz just so he could taste this special beer.

It’s one thing to impress people who are already in the market for what you offer. But when you can even affect those outside your market, like Cyrus Curtis was, then you’ll know you have a great USP.