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As Evolven’s marketing director since 2010, I directed all phases of both the creative and technical elements of marketing initiatives including event planning and organization, brand creation, print/Web collateral development, channel partner cultivation, lead generation, as well as running webinars.

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1.23.2012

Unique Selling Proposition and the Blind Man

 

I recently came across one of the legends of the advertising world, Rosser Reeves. He was known for creating one of the most used phrases in marketing and advertising: the Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

There is a famous, almost legendary story they tell of Rosser Reeves, and how far he went to apply his principles.

The Blind Man

During one warm New York spring, he and a colleague decided to have lunch in Central Park. Finishing their sandwiches they strolled back to the office on Madison Avenue. On the sidewalk a beggar stood, holding a sign and a cup for donations. Everyone ignored him. His sign read: I am blind.

Witnessing this scene, Reeves said to his colleague: He's using the wrong message; I bet I can dramatically improve the response to him with just a few words.

The wager was on. Rosser explained to the beggar that he was one of the United States' greatest copywriters and he would like to help him.

Perhaps feeling he had nothing to lose, the beggar agreed to let Rosser rewrite his sign.

Stepping well back, Rosser and his colleage observed this live experiment in the effects of message and copy on response. Instantly, passers-by saw the sign and then stopped, looked up at the sky around them and then got their wallet or purse out to make a donation.

What did Rosser write?

Rosser used a tactic of establishing commonality with his audience. Taking his own feelings, enjoying the pleasures of a spring day, as a cue he added onto the sign: It is springtime.

So it read

It is springtime.
And I am blind.

The fundamental communications lesson is how you need to work back from reality of where people are, rather than from your world view, your reality, to engage effectively. Presumably, passers-by could relate and emphasize with the blind man's situation, in contrast to their earlier distant response to his pleas.
Modern Adaptions
Recently an agency recreated the famous story for a promotional campaign.

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