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Published November 28, 2018
Published November 28, 2018
Photo: Samuel Zeller via Unsplash

It’s very easy in a digital age marked by short attention spans for us to mistreat key marketing expressions. Let’s look at some of these victims, beginning with the word “influencer.” How about the word “celebrity,” or “KPI”? In the universe of beauty, one of the most abused words is “education,” so much so that brands have forgotten what it’s about and why it’s necessary.

The term I want to discuss is “value proposition,” because I believe it’s one whose true meaning is worth saving. I hear the word thrown around the way a judo fighter body slams their opponent on the mat, whether it’s a photographer on set, an editor in the media … or even my doorman—when he used it in a sentence the other day I had to stop and explain what “value proposition” actually means.

What is a value proposition? Where is its place? When should it be thought about? Well, if you are going to give birth to a brand nowadays there are a few key elements that you must consider in strategic planning. There is the brand positioning, the target consumer, the product offering, the distribution channel and, of course, the marketing tactics. Once you add these guys up your equal sign will correspond the value proposition.

A value proposition is not a tagline, nor is it optional—it’s a must. If your company or organization is lacking a value proposition, then you are putting your money into a black hole.

Think of Coca-Cola. Is the value of this conglomerate in its infrastructure and the factories where the soft drinks are produced, or is it in the brand?

A value proposition is not a business school factor—that’s arbitrary. For all those executives who skimp and cheap out on design, has anyone ever informed you that you may be blind to forming your customers’ views and opinions as it relates to distinguishing your organization from another? How are your customers establishing functional associations that give them the reasons to buy your products? Thinking through the value proposition will help appropriate your brand’s identity requirements to include functional associations. This not only gives your customers reason to buy, it also exposes your differentiation within the marketplace.

The question I often ask myself is why should people pay a thousand dollars for a cell phone that the same factory makes for half the price? We pay more for a Lexus when it’s a Toyota with a different logo. Once you really figure out what your value proposition truly is, you must thrust it forward and observe it as your guiding light. You have to be more committed to it than a religion. If you don’t, eventually you become a sausage factory, which means someone will eventually out-sausage you.

The Magic of Walt Disney

Let’s look at a few examples, starting with Disney. The Walt Disney companies have one objective—to be the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information. How do they deliver on this value? They provide family entertainment with a portfolio ranging from production studios and movie franchises, to television networks, theme parks, and most impactful, a universe of merchandise. One of Disney’s values is the fact that they were the early Napster (from the record industry). They invested in talent development from their inception, something that the greedy recording companies forgot about. Besides taking advantage of artists, this is one of the reasons record companies are now obsolete. Most of them definitely lacked a value proposition. Disney puts money in and gets money out. Quality storytelling is the most expensive undertakings next to a divorce. Yet Walt Disney saw the joy in children’s eyes when they experienced brilliant anecdotes, and he built an empire around it.

The Luxury of Apple

For Steve Jobs, on the other hand, we are the children. While Microsoft made a lot of money in the early days, we had no choice—we were at their mercy, but no one yearned for their products. It took Bill Gates 20 years to figure out where and why, while Steve Jobs was a “go” from the beginning. Design and engineering were and still are Apple’s value proposition. Bill Gates built a technology brand, while Steve Jobs fostered a luxury brand. There are Intel chips in both Apple and Microsoft products, but only one of these brands is beautiful. The idea is to have people dream about your brand, while they fantasize about the value your products bring to their lives—that is the rationale.

Dyson Making the Mundane Cool

Why is Dyson so successful with their vacuum cleaners? Dyson has made the vacuum cleaner cool, especially for men who are not opening their browsers on a Saturday morning thinking, “Hey I need to go the store, and buy a vacuum.” If you are obsessively clean like me and have used both an Oreck and a Dyson to attack the dust and debris in your New York City apartment, you will notice that they both work really well. Only that Dyson is the Apple of vacuum cleaners. Every time they come out with a new design, I hear about it from a male counterpart, who will say “Bro have you checked out the new Dyson Cyclone V10?” and I end up buying it.

A value proposition is a proclamation and a promise which explains how a product answers and delivers a quantified value, summarizing the benefits of a product or service. A necessary creed within every company, the value proposition explains how value will be delivered to the customer. Once practiced, it’s also a justification of the value that connects the offering of a brand as it relates to its own point of differentiation. Why should I buy your product or service?


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