The first lesson many of us learn in advertising is to “identify the USP”—the Unique Selling Proposition that sets a product or service apart from its competitors. Unfortunately, the second lesson we learn is that certain product categories defy the USP approach.
Let’s face it: banks, flashlight batteries and gasoline are all pretty much the same. Despite our best efforts to find a USP in these categories, real world consumers shrug their shoulders: When’s the last time you drove by a Shell station to fill up with Chevron because of your fervent belief in Techron?
More often than not, it’s the advertising that is the differentiator in these commoditized categories. Case in point: Every battery claims long life but the relentless pink bunny made Energizer’s claim more believable—or at least more entertaining.
This brings us to another industry filled with brands in search of a USP: property and casualty insurance. Every product innovation (multi-policy discounts, for example) is quickly adopted industry wide. So brands have to look beyond product features to manufacture something they can own: Allstate created has the diabolical Mayhem character; Liberty Mutual came up with the Statue Of Liberty standups.
Then there are the Peyton Manning Nationwide commercials.
Refreshingly, the company seems to be acknowledging they don’t have a lot to say about their product. Instead, they signed up the NFL’s best-loved player to sing the 50-year-old Nationwide jingle, with constantly changing lyrics that never come close to mentioning the brand.
All season long the legendary #18 has been crooning tuneless odes to sandwiches, golf shorts, even his own bobblehead. Rather than try to talk us into buying insurance, Nationwide is simply saying, “Look! Peyton likes us. How bad can we be?”
Taking a page from Seinfeld, Peyton and Nationwide have created a campaign about nothing. You’ve got to admire their quirky confidence.