What’s the difference between a slogan and a value proposition? (or When creativity misleads business)

In general people like beauty. They like different form of art and things that have been generated through creativity. Creativity as such is something that most of the people consider a positive and aspiring treat. Not all people are creative, right? Being creative means somehow being superior to others, it gives a certain status and prestige, so most of the people aspire to be creative and be recognized as ones at least from time to time. Imagine when somebody says a funny or witty joke and the audience reacts: you’re so creative! Definitely that will make the person feel special.

Now, let’s talk a bit about business. Some years ago, most of the successful companies used to work with what’s called “unique selling proposition” (USP). It was a statement meant to embed the most unique features more likely to sell and usually it was strongly related to the product sold. But business and marketing evolved, customers became more and more important and forced the companies to steer their focus more and more towards them. The business language has become more holistic, we talk now about customer experience, customer centricity, and there is a huge discussion all over the world about how to break the functional silos in the companies and integrate the processes for the benefit of the customers. We also talk now about the “value proposition” which is the integrated but synthetic form of the value that a company gives to its clients. Value propositions are more holistic, as they refer not only to the product features and immediate benefits, but they also include more intangible things, like experience and feelings. Or what we call the emotional benefits, having the customer in focus, of course. “Makes me feel secure”, “Gives me the sense of belonging”, “increasing the self-esteem” or “takes the hassle away” could be some examples of emotional benefits with the potential to be included in a value proposition. But there could be also more rational ones. The idea is to have a clear but comprehensive statement that will summarize the whole value provided and that will make full sense for the customers. And hardly to be copied, preferably. The words are important just to secure the clarity of the idea behind, therefore they are rather descriptive. And here comes the fun. As explained in the beginning people like to be creative. And that is not an exception for senior managers in a company sometimes. It happened to me several times to be part of the value proposition process, when I got surprised by the high level of creative energy that some people tend to put into defining the value proposition. Trying to steer the process towards clarity over creativity put me sometimes in a strange position, as I was the “creative” marketing girl. How could I kill the wonderful creative ideas?… (but I told you that marketing is not advertising, right?)…No matter that sometimes they were just nice and sounding good, but lacking some important essence. Those sentences were more like slogans, and that normally should be the task of a professional copywriter, but only after the value proposition is clear. The slogan should be the artistic and condensed expression of a well defined value proposition, memorable and embedded in the brand personality.

So, the moral here is that creativity is good, but please don’t unleash it until it’s needed, as it might deform the essence of what you want to say. Clarify the core first, and then let the creativity run. It’s all about marketing strategy.

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