Razor Blades, Vodka, and the Search for a Unique Value Proposition

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On January 26, 2015

Razors-Vodka-and-SubstanceSuccessful businesses are always looking to refine—and promote—their unique value proposition. They focus on the one thing they do that no one else does—or the one thing they do better than anyone else. Then they use that as the basis for their marketing.

Some businesses think that means adding bells and whistles to their products or services. They look for something flashy or sexy that will make people sit up and take notice. Take a look at razors today and you’ll get a sense for what I’m talking about.

Razors perform a fairly basic—and useful—function. They shave hair. Years ago, a simple straight razor was all that was required. It did a great job—especially when wielded by a competent barber. Then along came the safety razor, which enabled safe and convenient in-home shaving. That was a significant improvement and opened up a whole new market.

Today, however, it’s a different story. Sure the razors and the blades are a bit better, but there were no significant changes until someone got the bright idea to introduce razors that had multiple blades. Did it really improve the quality of the shave? Probably not—but the manufacturers claimed it did and many of us bought into it. Now you can buy a razor that has six blades! Why? Apparently the thinking is that if two blades are better than one, then six blades must be really good.

Does a razor with six blades really shave better? It’s pretty doubtful. But it’s a classic example of trying to stand out from the crowd. It’s one-upmanship that really doesn’t add value.

Contrast that to an ad I saw recently. The ad was for Woody Creek Distillers—manufacturers of vodka. While I’m not endorsing the product, I have to admit I liked the approach they took. In a crowded field—where manufacturers are looking for some kind of differentiation in order to stand out—they used this headline: “Comes in One Flavor. Vodka.” That stunning headline was followed by a description that reads, “Distilled once, because that’s all it needs.”

In contrast to other distillers who introduced multiple flavors of vodkas and boasted about their multiple distilling processes (sounds a bit like the razor blade ploy), their emphasis is on quality. They aren’t adding unnecessary things that people aren’t asking for. They’re not tacking on “extras” that do nothing to improve the customer experience. They are focusing on delivering quality and standing out for something that really matters.

What’s your unique value proposition? You don’t necessarily have to reinvent the wheel to have a good one. But simply adding bells and whistles to an existing product or service won’t get you where you want to go, either. What is it that you can do better than anyone else? Develop that and then let people know about it!