Advertising makes me laugh sometimes.

Just a couple of years ago, no one had heard of the CVP (Customer Value Proposition). Yet today, it's apparently the most vital tool in marketing.

It's as if astronomers suddenly announced a new planet - bigger than Jupiter - sitting right in the middle of our solar system, which had hitherto gone unnoticed.

Is that plausible?

For anyone who doesn't know, the Customer Value Proposition is an equation of the value that a buyer will derive from the product. For example, the CVP for the Smart car might be "All the safety and driveability you get in a regular car, but at a lower price and easier to park."

So does the CVP replace the USP?

In reality, the poor old USP went out the window a long time ago, and any brand that talks about being the biggest, the fastest etc nowadays just sounds like a snake oil manufacturer.

Next came the ESP (Emotional Selling Proposition) which was based around how a brand would make you feel. So Haagen-Dazs ice cream, for example, felt sexy.

The problem with both the USP and the ESP is that they ignore price, and they ignore all the other options a consumer has. The truth is, price comes into nearly every decision. As does an assessment of the alternatives. People don't just buy an ice-cream because it's the creamiest, or because it promises to make them feel sexy. They buy it when it offers those benefits at an acceptable price, and when there is no more compelling option available.

What the CVP captures is the real calculation that consumers are (perhaps unconsciously) performing in their heads.

What it's not is an advertising proposition. No one should be advertising an equation, for God's sake. Good advertising is single-minded.

But where the CVP can be really useful, is in pointing to what the proposition should be.

Either highlighting a strength on one side of the equation, or bolstering a weakness on the other.

Because with any purchase, there is always a trade-off. The manufacturer has to make a margin, so if he's going to charge you $100, he can't provide you with a product that's worth $100, he can only provide you with a product that's worth $70. Or alternatively, if you want a product that is worth $100, you are going to have to pay $130 for it.

For example, Aldi has great prices, but the products are not the high-quality brands you are used to. And L'Oreal makes great cosmetics, but they're not cheap.

From here, it's relatively easy to see what the advertising needs to be. 

Aldi has to reassure people that the products are actually pretty good. (See ad above). And L'Oreal has to tell you that you're worth it.

So that's my take on the CVP. It doesn't replace the proposition. But it can help us write the right one.

Are people talking about the CVP at your place? And do you think it's useful, or yet more meaningless jargon?

13 Comments