Let’s begin with a little imagination exercise.
Suppose you want to buy milk. You head over to the dairy section of the supermarket but you’re confronted with dozens of milk brands. How do you decide which brand to buy?
From a marketing perspective, this question takes a different form: How do you make your brand stand out so that consumers will buy your product?
A unique selling point (USP) is what differentiates your product from others. If you were marketing your brand of milk, for example, you could highlight how your product packs a whole lot of vitamins and nutrients. Another way to differentiate yourself is through price; you could sell the lowest priced milk.
Your product’s USP helps consumers make purchase decisions. Consumers who prioritise the nutritional value of milk would probably pick the brand known to contain essential vitamins. That is why it is important to establish a USP for your product and also to build your brand around it.
One brand that has succeeded in doing so is LEGO.
LEGO was founded by Ole Kirk Christiansen. It started off as a small carpentry workshop in Billund, Denmark, selling primarily wooden furniture and toys. It wasn’t until after World War II when Ole Kirk bought a plastic injection moulding machine, did LEGO start manufacturing the iconic plastic bricks that have become synonymous with their brand. Those plastic bricks changed the way people viewed toys forever.
How did LEGO become such a pivotal force in the toy industry?
LEGO crafted a truly unique selling point which became the foundation of the brand. We analysed LEGO’s story and compiled a list of ways you can assemble your brand’s USP.
1. Invent something new
The most obvious way to establish a unique selling point is to create something new.
LEGO started out as a business selling wooden toys. In 1949, it started producing and selling the LEGO Automatic Binding Brick.
In 1954, Godtfred Kirk Christiansen – the son of founder Ole Kirk Christiansen – had a conversation with a purchasing agent that would go on to change the face of LEGO forever. The agent thought that toys back then lacked a system. This inspired Godtfred Kirk Christiansen to set up the “LEGO System of Play” which would revolutionise how children played with toys. With this new system, children could build houses with LEGO bricks.
However, there came another problem; children couldn’t lift up their handiwork without the entire thing toppling over. This led to Godtfred tweaking the design of the bricks so that they could be “stuck” together. By introducing “tubes”, LEGO bricks were transformed into blocks that could be used to construct anything and everything, limited only by one’s imagination. Children could build, take apart and rebuild something entirely different with the same set of bricks.
In a time where the toy industry was dominated by ready-made toys, LEGO stood out from the crowd by inventing a way for children to create their own toys.
2. Create a new demand
Not every product is as groundbreaking as LEGO bricks; that doesn’t mean these products should give up finding a USP. You can create a USP by meeting an unmet need. What are your customers looking for that your competitors aren’t providing? Show how your product solves this problem.
In the early 20th century, most of the toys on the market were ready-made products built for only one function. This meant children got bored of their toys quickly and there were few opportunities for children to challenge themselves creatively. LEGO identified this gap in the market and set out to position its products as educational toys – toys that built creativity and problem-solving skills.
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Sometimes, consumers require a little help identifying what they need. By introducing parents to the idea of learning through play, LEGO created a demand for educational toys. It also showed how its products met those new needs. This allowed LEGO to stand out from the rest of the toy brands and create a memorable brand.
3. Flaunt your strengths
In order to develop a unique selling point, you need to let your audience know what they are. This means knowing your own strengths and shouting them from the rooftops.
LEGO didn’t just recognise its own strengths, it did just as well communicating them to consumers, and we’re not just talking about advertisements. LEGO is all about fusing education and play, and its entire brand is built around this concept. LEGO has also invested in many projects apart from producing children’s toys. The company has also been inclusive to adults, churning out many special products for Adult Fans of LEGO (AFOLs).
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LEGO has made itself relevant to adults by tapping into fan culture. Adult fans can buy these special products and create their own collector’s pieces. These special products can create a space for adults to enjoy LEGO’s creations and to re-enter the world of play.
LEGO has also developed educational outreach efforts, establishing the LEGO Foundation. The LEGO Foundation works with various stakeholders, from parents to governments, to improve the quality of early childhood education through play.
LEGO also built a museum in Billund called The LEGO House. The museum showcases the works of AFOLs from all over the world and houses interactive exhibits that provide visitors with opportunities to learn through play.
Although these projects seem to veer away from LEGO’s primary business of producing children’s toys, they are essential in reiterating and building upon LEGO’s USP in educational play. The lesson to take away from this is that a USP isn’t an overnight creation, it takes time and effort. Brands with solid USPs have invested plenty of resources to carve out a place for themselves. LEGO, for example, has built its brand so well that it is now difficult to dissociate LEGO from the idea of learning through play.
Apart from inspiring children all over the world to build their own toys, LEGO has also inspired brands to be innovative and set themselves apart from the competition. Start early. Stand out from the competition by establishing unique selling points for your products.