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When the last article on the single-minded proposition was published (Singular Sensation, circa 1999), there was an overwhelming request (queues, riots, strikes, marriage proposals, etc.) for more ideas that can help creatives or agency/ client teams to source and define the single-minded proposition.

So here they follow in abundance:

Sources: A good place to start your treasure hunt is obviously client expertise. He knows more than you ever will. But if his inaccessibility gets in the way, try the following: Company archives (the past is not a different country); research for insight not foresight; ask an expert or get a professional opinion; personal experience (if it works for you, chances are it’ll work for others); take trial of competitive products; sift through competitive advertising; if you’re part of a network, ask other countries for product and/or category-based advertising; and, if all else fails, put your creativity to work through brainstorming and other lateral solutions. And this is just the start; but it does prove that finding the well for inspiration can often lie beyond the product.

Definition: Now that you have an idea from where you can source your information, here are some areas that can help you define your proposition. Take product characteristics, for starters: ingredients; texture; aroma; performance; packaging; availability vs. rarity; disposable/ refillable; country of origin.

Or user characteristics: celebrities use it; experts use it; professionals use it; the No.1 brand (most people use it); exclusive (only a select few use it). That’s not it. There are ways of using it: by sharing it; giving it; or simply, treating yourself with it. You can talk about how the product is made: superior technology; “with the fresh scent of summer meadows” (means nothing, feels great); home-made; Swiss craftsmanship.

Of course, surprising facts about the product are really persuasive: “Nib polished with walnut shells.” Or take price characteristics: better value; money-off offer; cheaper; more expensive; free gifts. Or just do a direct comparison. You may wish to urge consumers through image characteristics: imported/ high quality; good value/ friendly; exotic or contemporary. Try satisfying psycho/ physio needs: thirst, hunger, sex; social status; self-confidence; being a good parent or spouse.

Impress them with product heritage: Established 1776; old-fashioned (a Merrill Lynch ad said: “We make our money the old-fashioned way. We earn it.”); founders of the firm. Try reverse-persuasion: how you could lose out; the risk of damage; a missed opportunity. Or link your proposition to newsworthiness: new & improved; anniversaries; topical and seasonal events.

Finally, if all else fails, go for generic benefits: refreshment, peace-of-mind, security and trust. In fact, there’s an adage in ad-school that says that if all else fails, try the BBB rule; which stands for babies (to trigger a visceral, maternal response), beasts (household pets and other cuddly animations), or bimbos (a formula most evident in beer commercials). There you have it. No more excuses.

Propositions Good & Bad: One of the great SMP stories is about a fish farmer who had trouble selling his fish because they happened to be of a paler colour than what his competition was offering. His customers assumed that his stock wasn’t fresh because of its comparative paleness. Resorting to an ad agency, a brilliant piece of re-positioning put an end to his worries. With a proposition like Guaranteed not to turn pink in the can the others had trouble selling theirs.

Make sure the proposition you’ve developed is single-minded. Take the case for loud speakers. A good proposition could be True hi-fidelity from these speakers. But try a little harder and you’ll end up with Sound so realistic, you can’t tell it from real. But push this thought further to So realistic, you can even tell what make of piano (guitar, tabla) is being played and you’ve really got something to get the creatives going.

Another example. The SMP for Fizz Cola can be Fizz Cola is low in calories and tastes great. Sorry, that’s unacceptable. It’s not single-minded. Try rephrasing it. Fizz Cola is the only low-calorie drink that tastes great. Good. Now that’s single-minded.What about a proposition for decaffeinated coffee? Nescafe coffee. Without caffeine. Okay, you’ll pass the test with this but it’s got no kick. How about Same Beans. Same Blend. Same Nescafe — but no caffeine. Ah, we understand. Let’s drink to that. Finally, a reasonable proposition for a synthetic oil can be A better oil because it’s man-made. But with a bit of wit, you can say something far more memorable. Makes other oils look crude.

Over to you: For most creatives, the word on the street is invariably about how tough it is — if not impossible — to get great work out.  Or how frustrating it is trying to explain innovative concepts to myopic clients. Or how technology is not up to date to do justice to a particular idea. Or how agencies have no standards. Or how industry prejudice works against them.

The truth is that getting great work out has always been difficult. That there are scores of clients who, if given a chance, are aligned with the spirit and adventure of advertising. And how little a part technology plays in moving hearts and minds. That there are agencies whose standards provide a guiding light. That it is talented individuals who make a difference and not the operating system they’re working on.  The trick lies in your approach. If it’s as single-minded as your proposition, then nothing can get in your way. Not even your prejudices.

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