Marketing Lessons from Mad Men – Lesson #2: The Unique Value Proposition

This is the second video/post from the series of videos/posts I’m going to create on this topic.

I know, I know …

Many of you think that Mad Men is a blatant insult to advertising.

And, then there are those who enjoyed this drama only because it’s a period show (the 60s).

But, in case you’re a copywriter or advertiser (or one in making), you can notice that not only the director/writer was deeply inspired by David Ogilvy, but throughout the 7 seasons – in many scenes recorded at Sterling Cooper, SCDP and SC&P – you can find out many marketing/advertising-related themes.

This one – this scene – is all about finding a unique angle, differently positioning one’s brand and reaching to a unique value proposition that will place the crown on one’s head and pronounce one’s business the king of the ring.

So, what is the Unique Value Proposition (UVP)?

It is more or less the same as Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

Some say that a product can have more than one USP, but the UVP is always one.

Most of the experts agree that they’re the same and even if there is a line, it is blurred.

UVP is basically a unique angle that you find in a sea of sameness.

When you make a unique promise of value to your prospects, that unique promise is your UVP. It should be but more than a promise; for a promise that is similar to 101 other marketing vows cannot be considered a UVP.

Remember, U is for Unique. You have to somehow promise that what value you offer is unique and superior to such other values promised by your competitors.

Here are a few examples of UVPs from some BIG brands:

Uber … The Smartest Way to Get Around

Did you notice the superlative degree? Your UVP should not only be unique, but superior too.

Unbounce … A/B Testing Without Tech Headaches

Other cigarettes are poisonous – Lucky Strike is toasted.

Other A/B testing tools are a pain in the *** – Unbounce is super easy.

Brilliant, right?

Slack … Be More Productive at Work with Less Effort

Now, it’s your turn. Tell me what makes this statement unique.

5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1


Here’s a hint about finding/writing UVPs. You have to toy with superlative and/or comparative adjectives.

In case of Uber, it was the superlative degree; in this case, we can see that two comparative adjectives (comparison with other same/similar brands) have been used to prove that Slack is better than other brands.

It is “more” productive and it takes “less” effort.

Themes that I noticed!

So, what are some very important and copy-relevant themes that I noticed in this clip?

Let us talk about them.

Eugene Schwartz

When your product is not a unique product and there are a few other products like yours (which is how it is with everyone in the 21st century), your headline must be based on a unique value proposition that will make your product look better and different.

Remove your product from a bloody competition by portraying it as something totally different from its competitors.

Do not directly attack your competitors’ products because this will activate your prospect’s analytical brain (remember that emotions buy something and analytical brain mostly resists that decision). Instead, do this in a positive way – by portraying it differently.

Russel Brunson

Russel Brunson has this “Blue Ocean” theory.

Imagine that market is an ocean, you being a vendor are a shark and the ocean is so full of sharks. There are not enough tunas (customers).

The only way for you to survive is to find a blue ocean that is not even close as bloody as this one. Chances are that you will find plenty of tunas and very few sharks.

You do this via your UVP and then build up everything on it.

“Inception” (2010)

In case you’re not an idiot, you should know that every book/movie/documentary that is based on persuasion is actually source material for you. Inception is a movie that is very deeply based on the same principles that are widely and very often practiced in advertising and copywriting.

For instance, while writing sales copy, at a certain point you have to plant this idea in your reader’s mind that not only your product is the solution to their problems, but it is the best solution available in the market.

This is exactly what they did in Inception.

Now, if you remember that scene in which Eames kicked Arthur’s chair, you might also be able to recall what Cobb said when Eams suggested that they should use a “screw you old man” angle to change the way Fischer thought.

Cobb said:

No. Positive emotion trumps negative emtoion everytime. We yearn for people to be reconciled – for catharsis. We need positive emotional logic.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what Don Draper does in this scene.

He avoids negative discussion (cancer) and he finds a positive point.

As he himself says many times:

If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.

Don, Roger, and their clients didn’t like what was being said (by Government, Reader’s Digest, and people), so with this master move Don shifted the convo from cigarette = cancer to Lucky Strike is toasted (and thus not only unique but better than its competitors).

This is it for now; I’d be back soon with another lesson from Mad Men.

If you want to share any feedback, or you have any questions or suggestions, kindly let me know in the comment box below 🙂

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