Simon Cowell’s :15 Advertising Lesson


Simon Cowell’s :15 Advertising Lesson

I never thought I’d tag the British mastermind of America’s Got Talent, et. al. as old school, but when he recently told a contestant her song was consistent with her “USP”, he referenced a term that has become somewhat dated.

“Simon, what’s a ‘USP’?, ” asked the host.

There was a time when every bit of ad copy, every brochure draft that came off my Royal typewriter had to pass the USP exam. The concept of USP or Unique Selling Position had been around since the 1940’s, when copywriter icon Rosser Reeves coined the phrase while writing (very) successful television commercials. And USP stood the test of time among copywriters who understood their mission in life, at least the 9 am to 5 pm part.

As the name implies, a Unique Selling Position is a claim that your competitor cannot — or does not — make, must be stated clearly in your advertising, and includes a specific consumer benefit.

To wit:

  • Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.
  • When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.
  • A diamond is forever.
  • Have it your way.
  • Every pair of shoes purchased, a new pair of shoes for a child in need.


Today, USP is usually referred to as a brand promise, if it’s referred to at all. Too many marketers, I believe, are focused more on social reach and ‘brand awareness’ at the cost of USP clarity and effectiveness.

USP. Good stuff. Thank you, Simon.