PLH Brand USP | Product Development

We often talk about how having a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) for any brand is vital for product launch success. In the product design world, we also call a unique or original product as “Me Only Product.” When we say “Me Only,” it means that it is something that only you are manufacturing, that you are the only one selling it in the market, that you are the only game in town. It is easy to throw unique features, and all sorts of bells and whistles onto a product at the marketing stage and say that it’s the only one in the market– but being in the real “me only territory” means that you cater to your target market’s needs, that they are able to make an emotional connection with your brand or product– and doing it right entails a great deal of product development planning, which will definitely cost you a significant amount of time and money. Don’t worry, there are definitely ways to optimize the process, and that’s where we can help you. Learn what goes into making a me only product, how to best market it, and why producing one is the best way to up your brand value.

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We are going to do an episode together. We’ve been doing lots of them separate, but we try to do at least one a month together, so we’ll be getting that to you. This one we want to talk about because we recorded an episode with Rick Cesari. Rick is our brand and video marketing expert, a little bit of both. He’s been doing big name brands like the Foreman Grill and lots of consumer products that you have known for decades. He’s got great experience there and I want to dive in deeper in some of the things that he talked about.

We’re going to do this together because this is a hot topic for us. This is why people hire us. That’s why we’re here. It is what people need the most of. Rick calls it the USP, the unique selling proposition. Differentiator might be another term. We call it me-only products, me-only design, me-only brand, and we get that from Jerry Foster, who’s also going to be an expert who’s joining in soon. We’ll have Jerry Foster on it and that. We called it that before, but it’s competitive free territory. It’s how we always determine.

It comes from the term being a me-too product, which means you don’t have anything unique, original, and special about your product. We and Jerry Foster, we’ll talk about me-special products, which would be something that you’re getting in a unique color that no one else has, but otherwise people could get the same product. The color is one example.

You might be adding brand value in some other way. Maybe you’re providing services, or you have a product, but other people sell similar products, but you’ve branded it for you and added some unique things. Brenda Crimi is on this platform as well. You may have seen her do a lot of Amazon episodes and she is focused on talking about bundling as a unique differentiator as well. It is one way to go if you’re not going to design original product. Original product is what we’re talking. Original product is me-only product, something only you are manufacturing. It is original, it is unique to you. Aside from somebody doing something illegal to copy or knockoff your product, you should be the only guy selling it on Amazon or anywhere. The only person. You’re the only game in town.

We want to set that up for you because what does that mean and what does that look like. It means very different things to different people. I want to be clear here on our definition of that. It’s easy to throw lots of engineering and features and all sorts of bells and whistles onto a product and go, “It’s special, I’m the only one who has all this stuff on it,” and it’s yet another thing to be perfectly in a category all on your own because it is the one thing people wanted the most.

The other thing is, adding bells and whistles, which is a clichéd term, but you’re adding features. If you keep adding more and more features that might make it different from other things on the market, but it’s also pretty easy for your competition to add those features. Whereas when you’re really in me-only territory, this is a uniquely designed or manufactured or both product that it is put a much larger barrier to entry from your competition to being able to do the same thing. Hopefully, they’re not even able to do the exact same thing. They have to do something very similar and create maybe their own version of the product, but it would be incredibly costly. It might involve a lot of tooling, special molds. Things that you’ve invested in, maybe, that your competition would not be interested to invest in order to compete and try to take some of your market share away.

Me-only doesn’t mean it’s patented. It could be, but it doesn’t have to be. I want to be clear on that because there are lots of great things that I go to specific brands for. I can tell you there are knockoffs, but I go because they provide something a little bit better on the way that it is. It’s softer, it’s more comfortable, whatever that might be. It’s their special sauce. It could be proprietary. We’ve heard that term proprietary from Jason Webb, one of the legal experts on our platform. Jason talks about proprietary technology is sometimes more enforceable around the world because it has the same definition. Whereas patents don’t. They differ from country to country and it has no expiration date.

I’ve worked for companies, Milliken and Company in particular, a textile company who didn’t share their technology. It’s proprietary. They filed lots of patents, but they didn’t file patents on a lot of these things and they’ve had a lock on being able to create a very specific style that no one knows how to do, because they created a machine around it. They kept it a secret. They didn’t patent it and they’ve been making it for over 30 years. That’s impressive. They can be so much more than that and how you create this original product, this me-only, and how you get into this me-only territory.

A great way to think about that is a recipe. A recipe can be a trade secret and not be registered anywhere as intellectual property and a recipe could be for food, but it also could be a formula for something else. It doesn’t necessarily have to be food. Coca Cola is the premier example of a trade secret that was never patented or published anywhere. The formula for Coca Cola, there is supposedly an original formula somewhere within the Coca Cola Corporation and they have so many different versions of soft drinks they make now that you know the original formula is probably less important than it once was. The reality is for the better part of 100 years, Coca Cola has been a huge corporation and they had a unique product, a unique selling proposition because their product tasted better than anybody else’s, at least according to them. It was incredibly valuable and if they had tried to patent that chemical formula, which you can do if you want to, they would have had to disclose their formula to the world and they’ve gotten a lot more value in wealth out of that by keeping it secret.

Thinking about it from the fact that this is secret, it’s the fact that it was valuable to the consumers. They wanted that better taste. It meant something to them. They were willing to buy that brand even though there were other colas on the market because they liked the way that tastes. That was the thing that resonated and that’s what I wanted to get across here in that a unique selling proposition isn’t just a feature. It isn’t just something you talk about and say on your videos and put in your market materials and design into your product. It needs to be the thing that makes people buy you over someone else. It needs to have that relevance and importance.

When you don’t have that relevance happen, when you don’t have it being the reason to buy you, there is a lot of competition. Even if you have features that nobody else has, they’ve never seen before, it’s an invention and it’s cool to you, if they don’t care, they’re going to buy something else with their money and that’s not going to build a sustainable business for you. That’s not a sustainable product line. That is not a multimillion dollar winner. How do you get to that relevance and how do you do that in the me-only territory? I thought it would be great to talk a little bit about our process by how we do this.

I believe there’s opportunity for every company and everybody to develop or have developed for you, to create a unique me-only product. It’s a matter of making the decision to do it. There are a lot of variables as to what that product might end up being at the end of the process, but it’s a matter of deciding to do it. It’s about spending the time and probably spending the money because it would often will require expenses. It may be in the very early days of your business, you’re not able to financially justify that. There are a lot of things you can do to prepare yourself for that over time. Then eventually you get to the point where you can afford the effort, the time, the money. Everybody can do it, but it is a philosophy for us.

It’s a mindset that we started out to say that there’s always an opportunity. There is no brand that is so good that they don’t have a gap. All you have to do is a little bit of research to find that out. Go on the reviews. Too often, I see this happen. The bigger the brand is, the fuller of themselves that they are typically. They’re like, “That’s not a customer.” That’s what they say when they get a bad review. “That’s not our customer. We don’t care.” Those are the greatest opportunities. This is something that we do as a practice. We do significant research before we set pen or a pencil to paper. Before we do that, we spent a significant amount of time on the research side understanding the competitive landscape, the product features, who are competitors, where are their strengths and weaknesses, could they just throw money at tooling and manufacturing power and outgun us all the time or more marketing dollars. For an inferior product, more marketing dollars, and that’s Rick’s point that he was making was that the less differentiated you are, the more money and effort you have to spend in marketing and it’s harder to do it.

It’s harder to do it and it ends up making you less profitable at the end of the day. If you have a more of a unique original product that resonates with the consumer, whether that’s making an emotional connection with them that it just looks better, feels better, it’s more comfortable, maybe it has some unique and better features that has capabilities the other products don’t have. That’s great if you can do that. If you have a product that is inherently unique and more desirable, the reality is you won’t have to spend as much money to market it.

PLH Brand USP | Product Development

Product Development: The less differentiated you are, the more money and effort you have to spend in marketing and it’s harder to do it.

Let’s return to the Coca Cola example. I know that doesn’t apply to anybody on our platform. None of you are major beverage bottlers, but if you go back to the Coca Cola example, certainly there are dozens of companies now in the United States. It was different when Coca Cola was new because they were the first. Now there are dozens of companies that make a cola of some kind. Coke and Pepsi are the biggest. You’ve got RC Cola. Polar is one that’s in New England. There are lots of regional bottlers that have a version of cola. Even some of the big supermarket chains have their own no-name version of cola.

Some examples are Warby Parker and eyeglasses. The eyeglass market’s closed and tight and multibillion-dollar industry, yet Warby Parker was able to come in and innovate in how they delivered it. The product’s unique, but it’s not amazing. Still that worked for them. It doesn’t always have to be product features. It can be services or how it’s provided or how it’s delivered and all of that adds to a me-only experience and how you’re doing that. You’re separating yourself. There’s another great example that I want to mention, it’s the company called Sustain. They make toxin-free tampons and they disclose all the materials. Procter & Gamble does not. They make pads and tampons and condoms and they’re all vegan and they all have no toxins in them and they all have disclosed every single bit of what they put into them. They’ve done it on purpose and they have sold millions of units in three years, a short period of time to be selling millions of units in a very difficult enclosed industry to get into.

They tapped into something that stresses the audience out. Women are concerned about what they stuck in their body and we’re a little pissed that the FDA won’t force the Procter & Gamble and other companies to disclose the ingredients because that’s in my body and it should be regulated, like a medical product that’s invasive. That’s where this woman came up with this innovation because she had been lobbying to try to get disclosure on the ingredients, couldn’t get it and said, “Forget that. I’m making a product that I know exactly what’s in it.” There are other women out there who want that, and there were.

What’s brilliant about that is now they’ve turned that into why they are unique and different. It’s become their me-only aspect of their product. In that industry, similar to that cola, soda industry, in order to rise above the crowd, that’s the only thing those companies could do because they all pretty much offer the same thing. In the way of diapers, for instance. Everybody’s got diapers, everybody’s got size newborn to size whatever, four or five, whatever they have. The only way that they can differentiate is either to license characters to print on them. Some of them have Disney princesses on them and others don’t, or you throw more marketing dollars at it and try to get your brand name more known. That’s the same thing with the soda example, but here, that’s brilliant for how the company then changed the rules. They changed the game, even though there were no regulations requiring it. They turned that instead of what Procter & Gamble and those other companies thought would be a liability, if they had to disclose all the chemicals that are in there. This company turned it into an asset and a unique selling value proposition.

Now that she’s on women’s trust and her products and her brand and that translates into month after a month of purchases. You’re talking about very high brand loyalty of which most women do not have that with the brand. Many will buy the cheapest thing out there. On top of which there’s another company that women’s razors. Women’s razors were assessed of pink tax, so are tampons. Just because they make it in pink, even though it’s exactly the same, but they market it to women, they charge more money for the women’s version of the razor that’s exactly the same. It ends up being a tax for the consumer. It’s not a tax for the company. The company just taking an advantage of making a larger profit margin on those products for women.

This woman got pissed, invented or designed her own razors. It’s a nice design. It’s ergonomic. It’s not amazing. It’s still a razor. It doesn’t have tons of research on blade development or anything like that, but it’s nice and it doesn’t charge you that much money. It’s become the consumable that it should be, and she’s earned trust because of that. That’s an article that I wrote about for Inc. It’s a great model for it and I loved interviewing the founders. These are things that you want to think about. Overall, your whole unique selling proposition, though it might be product features, but how you market those product features and that’s where you want to go back to Rick and start talking about who your brand is, what it wants to be, and what it wants to stand for. If it’s trust and transparency, like those last two examples we gave you, then you want to head into that.

You want to become the next Sustain. If it’s Yeti coolers and you want to be the coolest thing out there that like everybody premium wants to have, then you better know that. You better make sure that the product reflects that in its originality, so does your marketing, so does your brand, so does all of those things that you built into it and it makes Rick’s job easier, whoever you do work with to video marketing and content marketing and generate your brand.

Put it in context. We often recommend it to our clients and our members here on this platform that you don’t always want to start immediately with a me-only product, especially if you have a new company, you’re just starting out or you’re branching into a new product category. Very often you may want to buy something that exists. Just be a reseller of it or private label it in order to test the market and to prove. The dogs eat the dog food. Before you’re going to go invest a lot more dollars in developing that me-only product and paying to manufacturer and maybe make molds for that me-only product.

We also have another new expert who’s going to come on the platform, Caleb Allen. Caleb and I were talking about some that if you want to do that, it may be in your best interest not to throw it up on Amazon unless you already have an established brand. You’re selling multiple products and you’re comfortable in there, but running a funnel or a mini funnel and running something like that to test out a bundled product or as Tom put it, the AB model. You’re going in with whatever that exists and test that out because if you could even get 1,000 people, and Laura Hazzard, our market research expert, we shouldn’t have less than 300. If you can get closer to 1,000, you get more statistically significant information on your market research side of things.

In that case, if you can get 1,000 people to sign up through the funnel and you could send them a preview model or you could send them information or show them side by sides of the new product with the one that they did buy from you and ask them their opinion and get their input, you could go back to those people and offer great discounts for them to come and write reviews for you and testimonials for you. Now you’re going to jumpstart and be sure that your new me-only product has a better resonance with the market. I like Caleb’s strategy for a startup as well because it helps build you that early fan base who’s going to go out there and be an advocate for you and really help you have momentum to building the reviews. That’s a hard thing when you’re starting up nowadays.

The reality is that if you are a business owner that wants to eventually either build a brand that’s valuable enough that someone’s going to buy it or license it, but I would think mostly buy it or you want to either sell the brand or sell the company, you’ve got to get to the point where you are creating the only product and getting those higher profit margins. Some of that could involve intellectual property that also becomes an asset, but the products itself could be an asset. At the Prosper Show, there was somebody speaking from the stage who had sold their company and they had an awful lot of products. They sold a lot of skews and when we looked at them at the end of the day, they did an awful lot of work for a lot of years to sell their company for what seemed to be not a whole lot of money. There wasn’t much of a premium. They got over what their revenue was.

It was less than their annualized revenue. It was less than that because they probably had a lot of devalued skews in the process because that’s what happened. Are you on a decline? We’re stacking S-curves. It is an issue that your product line can very easily get devalued if there’s not that specialness there that resonates with the consumer base, that has a build to the brand value. Brand value is an intangible and so being able to add a tangible intellectual property style thing, proprietary technology accounts and intellectual property definition. It’s not just a patent and a trademark. Including all those things together adds actual tangible value and then that adds into and mix and is a part of that intangible brand value of that fan base that you’re building and the trust factor that you’ve got going on with your consumer base.

All of those things do translate to a bottom line strategy. There is no company that I’ve ever worked for, worked with no brand and we’ve worked with brands of all sizes. Herman Miller, Martha Stewart, just gigantic companies and when you look at that, at the end of the day, they all have an original product that they want to be the only one in their territory. It is their goal; it is what they do. They want to carve out that. I don’t want to call it blue ocean because I don’t like that term. Blue ocean means you’re out in the middle of nowhere all alone. You want to be in shallower waters, but you want to have that little ways to yourself. You want to be in there, you want to have that little section where you’re not crowded in with everybody. That’s what you want but you don’t want to be all the way out there because that’s a big spend.

We hope this helps you. We wanted to set some context for Rick Cesari, Jerry Foster and Brenda Crimi. There isn’t an expert on this platform that our talk doesn’t set up. I want to make that clear that they’re all here for you. That’s why we brought them together because everything that we do all together, we all have the same philosophy here at Product Launch Hazzards. Our philosophy is to grow a big sustainable brand that is profitable, that gets you what you’re looking for. It gets you going, gets you where you want to go. We all need to work together to make that happen because you cannot do it alone. You can’t do it because there are so many things that you don’t know that you don’t know. Until next time, this has been Tracy and Tom.

Tune in to Tom Hazzard & Tracy Hazzard next Office Hours. Connect with and find out more about Tom Hazzard & Tracy Hazzard in our Experts Directory.

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About Tom Hazzard

An inventor with 37 patents and an unprecedented 86% success rate for consumer product designs, Tom Hazzard has been rethinking brand innovation to design in success for over 25 years. Tom’s patented innovations provide entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes a system to spread their brand, grow valuable consumers, and diversify into higher converting revenue streams without a lot of time, cost or effort. Tom is co-host of the Forbes-featured fast growth WTFFF?! 3D Printing podcast as well as host of two new podcasts, Feed Your Brand & Product Launch Hazzards borne out of his core business, Hazz Design, where he has designed and developed over 250 products that generate $2 Billion in revenue for retail and e-commerce clients.

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