28 April, 2008

The Unique Selling Proposition of the Restroom

Today, I want to speak to you about your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), that is, what differentiates your product or business from the rest of the marketplace.

Those living in the Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina triangle are probably familiar with the convenience store/gas station chain known as Sheetz. It’s a step up from your 7-11, because it has made-to-order sandwiches, burgers and pretzels, plus ridiculously good prepackaged baked goods, but it’s not quite Wawa, which is local to the smaller Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia triangle.


Anyway, on a recent trip to West Virginia I drove past a Sheetz, and the first thing below the large red and yellow Sheetz sign was not “UNL 87 $3.49,” “Open 24 hours,” “Fresh Food Made to Order,” or even “Major Credit Cards Accepted.” It was one word, “Restrooms.” Restrooms, I thought. This placed has gas, drink, hot food, an ATM, possibly beer and wine, and snacks, and they’re advertising restrooms? Did someone miss the point?

Or did someone get the point all too clearly?

Let’s think. You’re heading to West Virginia for skiing, hunting, camping, etc. You left the plentiful lanes and comforting concrete barriers of I-68 almost an hour ago. Now you’re in an unfamiliar place. You’ve been driving for hours, and you’ll be driving for a couple more. You haven’t even seen a McDonald’s for over an hour. Do you A) need food? Maybe. B) Need gas? Maybe. C) Need a drink? Later. D) Need a bathroom? Absolutely. Now, I’m not sure what the bathroom situation would be like in the Wing Shack (which looks more like a converted body shop) or Sopranos Pizza (“Eat pizza or else”), but I do know civilization faded away an hour ago, and that big red and yellow sign confirms that if we pull in to Sheetz, I know I’ll be able to…rest.

Then you stop to use the bathroom and think, I am kind of hungry. And now I’ll need something to wash that sandwich down. I might as well get gas, so we don’t have to stop again. And let’s pick up a 6-pack in case the liquor store is closed when we get where we’re going. I’m sure it doesn’t work that way for every customer. Many people probably flush and go, but how much does keeping a couple of bathrooms open really cost Sheetz versus how much money they make per flush?

If you’re the first stop on the line or one of the last, will people be thinking they need to buy beer, peanuts and gum? Or will they be thinking it might be a long time before we see another clean bathroom?

And our little agency blog is another example of not knowing exactly what your USP might be. We think we’re pretty smart here at the Ad Agency Confessional. We feel we give out lots of great advice accompanied by unique and entertaining points of view. So why do most people come to our blog?

Poetry and maple syrup.

Yup, what started years ago as a Friday afternoon game at Renegade—the Friday Haiku—has become a staple for our blog and has merited repeat visitors (or offenders, depending on your point of view) and links from several other big bloggers. And a blog in November ’07 about the childhood trauma caused by the incongruity of Mrs. Butterworth’s talking bottle advertising and the far less animated supermarket version garnered our Agency Confessional more than 400 hits over the past month, thanks to countless people asking, “What happened to Mrs. Butterworth?” and of course, Geico. Woulda thunk it?

The lesson learned. Bad poetry. Clean toilets. You never know what your own Unique Selling Proposition might be.

Next week: How Aunt Jemima Saved My Life.


Maybe I'll write a sonnet.




--Captain Awesome, Project Specialist


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1 others 'fessed up:

Little Kenny Big Time April 28, 2008 at 2:53 PM  

You know I'm a fan of Sheetz' Shmuffins, Shmiscuitz, and Shagelz, but there's only one word that can describe the Sheetz restroom... Shatisfaction™.

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