From a young advertising age you're taught about the Unique Selling Proposition. It's the most important line on a brief - the single thing to communicate to the consumer. By definition, the first word suggests the proposition must be something no other brand or product could own or use.
But we're seeing this notion increasingly become redundant. Rightly or wrongly.
I attended a session at SxSW called How Norton Hacked Hollywood, a case study about the antivirus software brand releasing a 20 minute documentary on cyber crime. The discussion included the client, creative agency, director and film distributor.
I rate it, although I haven't watched it (which says a lot actually). It's definitely more interesting than what their competitors are doing and I totally dig they bought on a film distributor instead of getting the intern to 'seed' it.
With increasing investment into content strategy, we'll see many more brands explore this approach. I wonder though, could McAfee (Norton's competitor) have done this? And does that even matter?
If a beer brand creates a poker app, does it matter any number of competitor brands could have done the same - beer, alcohol or other? Does your answer change if the target audience regularly uses it?
We see this lack of uniqueness in traditional channels too. TV commercials often do a category job, and occasionally not even that. The strategy behind most Superbowl ads is to make the audience laugh and slap a logo on the end.
Byron Sharp says distinctiveness is critical in making brands identifiable, which may be a better interpretation of "unique". To answer my own question, perhaps the proposition doesn't have to be something only your brand could own, but rather your brand is first to own.
One of my favourite content pieces ever created is Gatorade Replay. Does it matter Powerade could have made it? Stealing from a meme, the above image (which replaces the word art with advertising) suggests an appropriate response could be "Yeah but Powerade didn't."
Being first might just be more important than being unique. Both in owning your proposition and what you create. Especially in categories where there is little difference in the product benefit.
Or, is that the difference between good advertising and great?