Rosser Reeves

NEW YORK -- How can one simple phrase kick your competitor's ass before they knew what hit them?

Rosser Reeves can answer that question. In fact, he is credited as one of the great influences in marketing.

Reeves was born in Danville, Virginia in 1910, the son of a Methodist minister.

His first job after leaving the University of Virginia was as a reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Reeves quickly realized the pay for newspaper reporting was lower than he wanted, so he turned to advertising.

In 1934, he moved to New York and worked as a copywriter for several companies before landing a job at the Ted Bates and Co. Advertising Agency in 1940.

In the 1950's, Rosser Reeves becomes a thumping success, creating history and demolishing icons of creativity on the way. He was the vice-president and copy chief of Ted Bates and Co. for six years, and then became the chairman of the board in 1955.

He wrote his first book in 1961, Reality of Advertising. This book laid out the selling technique that he is famous for: the Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

He defines a USP has having three parts:

In essence, a USP briefly and clearly explains a single quality about your product that lets it stand out against the competition.

The most memorable USP Reeves developed was the one for M&M's. At the time, M&M's was one of the first sugar-coated chocolate candies on the market. So Reeves wrote, "It melts in your mouth, not in your hands."

Utilizing USP's, the Bates agency leaped to be the fifth largest advertising agency in the world, handling such accounts as Warner-Lambert Pharmaceutical, Brown and Williamson Tobacco Products, Mobil Oil, and the Chase Manhattan Bank.

In 1965 he was inducted into the Copywriter's hall of fame. However a year later he astonished everyone by resigning after explaining that he had always wanted to retire at the age of fifty five, and find serenity.

Reeves died in 1984 but his concept of USP revolutionized marketing forever.

Domino's Pizza grew because of a USP ("Hot, fresh pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed").

FedEx became popular because of a USP ("When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight").

So have other companies with a USP.

Since I study all the great marketing and advertising gurus from the past for a living, you can guess I know what works and what doesn't . But there is only one that has made me serious money.