Why the Single Minded Proposition is so important

“These uncertain times.”

“The new normal.”

“Stay safe.”

“We’re here for you.”

“We’re all in this together.”

Sound horribly familiar? Those pandemic phrases infiltrated our vocabulary from the early Covid response campaigns and lingered well into 2021. We all heard the same things, listened to the sombre piano music, and saw the same home video-style camera footage from numerous brands across the world.

The pandemic showed us quite how easily brands can start to sound the same and stand for the same thing. Research from Kantar showed that people quickly started to get fed up with ads that looked and felt the same and didn’t have anything specific to say about themselves.

Marketing through a global pandemic was of course a challenge (to say the least!) but this is no excuse for being complacent or repetitive. Whilst early communications may have addressed the initial need for reassurance and consumer comfort, it’s safe to say that the dial quickly shifted while many brands were still touting the same generic message about staying together.


Even in times of crisis, brands still have an opportunity to provide consumers with creative, distinctive, and memorable content, built on real insights and truths that actually resonate. Marketing teams can always be thinking about what they can do to make their communications more effective and how they can show consumers that their brand is here to help them, through whatever challenges they’re currently facing.

Easier said than done? Well not necessarily. That’s where a good single minded proposition comes in. Single minded propositions can really help brands define what they stand for and what they believe in. The ultimate springboard to creating campaign communications that cut through the noise is effective and will set your brand apart from the competition. When looking for a proposition, it’s worth remembering that you don’t necessarily need to be differentiated from your competitors, the single minded proposition will help develop campaign creative that differentiates your brand.

Take Persil as a great example. In the late 90s/early 00s, they completely disrupted a low-interest category – no-one is ‘inspired’ to buy laundry detergent, it’s a need to have. But at the time, every detergent on the market had the same proposition – ‘keep clothes whiter than white’ meaning adverts were generic and delivered little or no brand association. Persil needed to act drastically to remain relevant and compete for market share amongst parents. They developed a brand purpose which focused on the belief that ‘Dirt is good’ and were successfully able to champion dirt and outdoor play. They ultimately made it their mission to get kids playing outside more. The single minded proposition and the purpose were so strong that it still lives on in (albeit in a different guise) two decades later.

So, what is an single minded proposition?

Not to be confused with a tagline or strapline, a single minded proposition is the one compelling reason that a consumer would want to buy your product or use your service. It should be viewed as the most important thing that you can say about your brand. It sits at the heart of a great marketing story as we talked about with Persil. It can also be known as a Key Message or One Important Thing or Key Takeaway or Point of Differentiation.

It is a simple statement and it’s never more than a sentence. It’s about ditching the all the waffle and cutting to the chase.

Here are a couple of great examples of SMPs from campaigns that you may recall:

Brand SMP
Coca-Cola Choose happiness
iPod 1000 songs in your pocket
Cascade Complete Cascade Complete makes the sink redundant
Avis We’re number two, so we try harder
Persil Dirt is Good.
VW Beetle Dare to be happy.


Why is a single minded proposition so important?

The marketplace is crowded with competitors offering similar products with comparative benefits, targeting the same customers.  But being completely frank, telling customers what you do isn’t actually that important. What you do for your customers is the most important. This is truer than ever, given the top-down communication approach is pretty much redundant in today’s world and most brands are now fighting to find new and engaging ways to encourage participation with their products and services.

The very best communications focus on one thing; Simple-Minded Proposition. Of course, your product has many great features and benefits that will endlessly enrich lives and are worth shouting loud and proud about. But if you try and cram as many messages as possible into your communication strategy, you risk meaning nothing to anyone. The campaign message quickly becomes diluted.

So ultimately, if you can land on a killer single minded proposition, the thinking of your marketing team, creative team and/or agency will be much more streamlined ensuring the creative juices will be flowing from the outset. A great SMP is memorable and brave! But most importantly, a great SMP can lead to memorable campaigns that evoke emotion in the consumer and make communications much more effective.

What’s the difference between a tagline and single minded proposition?

An SMP is usually not customer facing or for public consumption. It inspires creative and kick-starts BIG thinking. A tagline on the other hand more about customers and the value your product provides. Think of it like this – the SMP is the umbrella or ‘North Star’ in the creative process. All communications (including the tagline) should fall from the SMP.

There are however some rare occasions where the SMP and tagline are the same for example – Apple iPod – 1000 songs in your pocket.

How to write a SMP

1. What are THE most important features of your product or service?
Write down the best features of the product or service. What makes your product unique? These are rational, literal things. Dig into the data to understand your customers. Become the consumer. Get to know the product well. Which feature will talk to more of the target market? What can your brand own? What can you claim that the competition can’t?

2. What are the benefits of the features you’ve identified?
Think about what’s in it for the end user. Which feature stands out the most? Why do they care? How do you improve the quality of your customers lives? Remember that benefits talk to the heart. Simply tell your customers why they want it.

3. Agree on one thing that will drive a customer to purchase.
Create a shortlist of everything you’ve written down above and agree on one thing. Remember, deciding what not to communicate is just as important as deciding what to communicate. From here you’ll be able to draft your SMP and you may well go through many, many iterations before one sticks. Remember the Dirt is Good. We know research tells us that consumers respond much better to one idea, so be brave and don’t dilute it.

4. The elevator pitch
Einstein said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”
Can you say it in one sentence without having to explain anything further? Could you put it on a billboard in Piccadilly Circus on a busy Friday night and your consumer would want to buy your product or service? If the answer is yes, then you might just have landed your killer proposition.

Are you struggling to define your single minded proposition or find one that sticks? If so, then we have a talented team of BIG thinkers that would love to help, just get in touch.