Are Unique Selling Propositions (USP) different than Taglines? The correct technical answer is absolutely yes, but you’d be surprised at the number of people (even marketing types) that don’t know the difference.

However the truly sad part is not just in the lack of understanding, but in the missed applicational leverage and lost opportunity costs associated with the lack of understanding. In today’s post, I’ll define the difference between the two, as well as how to use each of them to their maximum benefit…

Unique Selling Proposition: A USP is a value statement that communicates what sets your business, product, or service apart from the competition. A USP is not only valuable in helping potential customers to make a buying decision but it is also critical in helping your company align its strategy with regard to positioning and execution.

Tagline: A tagline is an actual piece of marketing copy written to sum up what you do, or what you want your prospects to know about your product or service. It can also reflect a key benefit they will reap if they purchase your product, service, or solution. A tagline is the new media version of a company slogan. It can be a mantra, company statement, or even a guiding principle that is used to create an interest in your company, product or service.

I like to think of a USP as strategic and a Tagline as tactical. USPs define, while Taglines summarize and sell. Now where things really start to get interesting (and powerful) is when you learn how to combine the two into what I refer to is a Core Marketing Message. The best Taglines actually include the USP, and when implemented properly create a memorable and lasting enhancement to your brand. Following are a few examples are combined Taglines that include USPs:

  • Circuit City’s tagline is: “Just What I Needed” and the USP is Choice
  • BMW’s tagline is: “The Ultimate Driving Machine” and the USP is Quality
  •’s tagline is: “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore” and the USP is Choice
  • McDonald’s tagline is: “I’m Lovin It” and the USP is Experience
  • Skype’s tagline is: “The Whole World for Free” and the USP is Low Price

Other than not having one at all (which in my opinion is better than having a bad one), the biggest mistakes made by amateurs is using a tagline to just explain what they do. For example, how many times have you been driving down the street and observed a contractor’s truck that says something akin to ABC General Contractors – “Serving all your contracting needs”. While this clearly states that you are a master of redundancy it does nothing to separate you from the competition and it adds no value whatsoever.

The last point I want to make is that great taglines are memorable…they not only catch your attention, they hold it. Great taglines appeal to or reinforce basel emotions. The best taglines make bold statements, are provocative, engender trust or confidence, are extremely creative, and they support a brand promise.

Bottom line…If you’re going to use a Tagline make sure you take the time to think it through such that it adds to your brand equity rather than dilutes it.