Creating a value proposition: What do you do best in the world?

The New Yorker touts itself as “the best writing in the world.” Whether you believe that or not, it’s a powerful assertion and—for someone like me who happens to highly esteem good writing—effective for enticing and holding new subscribers.

Claiming that they offer the best writing in the world is the magazine’s value proposition. It says a few things: We’ve been around a long time, we’re discriminating, and we understand that our readers value that. It creates a culture of loyal customers which, in the dying print world, is critical to a magazine’s survival.

BMW also offers a powerful value proposition for their brand: “The ultimate driving machine.” Yes, you have to have the goods to back it up, but once again, they’ve created a loyal fanbase that prizes luxury and performance.

Yet another example is Snapple, which proudly proclaims their product is: “Made from the best stuff on earth.”

morty-seinfeld-1-dad-shirtEach of these taglines offers a promise steeped in hyperbole. These brands have taken on the challenge of excellence and they intend to make that challenge part of their brand culture. They’re inviting you to find out whether or not what they’re saying is true for you.

The tactic of hyperbole in branding and advertising demonstrates indisputable confidence, ambition, elevation above the fray. As consumers, we’ve been trained to internalize these grandiloquent assertions before applying our judgment to the choice of engaging with the product or business. It’s become automatic.

(After all, you would be no more likely to waste your time sending outstanding writing samples published in other magazines to The New Yorker‘s editorial staff than you would be to wheel your shiny Bugatti into BMW headquarters and demand they retract their claim of “ultimate.”)

What promise are you willing to make to your customers and fans?

But if, as consumers, we’re accustomed to subconsciously process hyperbole, then why do so many business owners and decision makers tend to shy away from making similar promises? It can’t simply be humility or a fear of being called out by competitors more fierce than they are—or the customers they each serve.

No, more likely, the difficulty in specifying a value proposition originates from something much simpler. Maybe they haven’t truly thought about it. Or perhaps putting the task on orbit makes them confront something a bit scarier: Maybe nothing differentiates them from their competitors. But that’s just lack of confidence.

As a brand strategist, I see this exercise as a unique challenge, particularly for service-providing startups. Sure, your competition may have longevity and a longer list of contacts, members, donors, and/or clients. But that’s just glorified squatter’s rights.

New businesses, certainly, but even existing organizations have an opportunity to position themselves as doing what they do better, acknowledging the needs of their target audience, and projecting that message confidently.

In your most brazen, hyperbolic voice, answer this question: How can you fill in this blank about your business or organization (or yourself) to show that you stand for excellence?

The best ______ in the world.

Then go out and make it true.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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