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Revised Unique Selling Proposition: Scale Development, Validation, and Application

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This article reports an empirical study that revisits the unique selling proposition (USP) concept by delineating the content domains based on an operational definition. A revised USP (RUSP) scale was developed and purified, resulting in five dimensions that were consistent with our theoretical conceptualization. An application study further demonstrated that a high or low level of RUSP characteristics in an ad is associated with ad effectiveness measures. Theoretical contributions, managerial applications, and future research directions are discussed.
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Journal of Promotion Management
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Revised Unique Selling Proposition: Scale
Development, Validation, and Application
Yongge Niu & Cheng Lu Wang
To cite this article: Yongge Niu & Cheng Lu Wang (2016) Revised Unique Selling Proposition:
Scale Development, Validation, and Application, Journal of Promotion Management, 22:6,
874-896, DOI: 10.1080/10496491.2016.1214209
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Revised Unique Selling Proposition: Scale Development,
Validation, and Application
Yongge Niu
a
and Cheng Lu Wang
b
a
Business School of Sichuan University, Chengdu, China;
b
University of New Haven, West Haven,
Connecticut, USA
ABSTRACT
This article reports an empirical study that revisits the unique selling
proposition (USP) concept by delineating the content domains
based on an operational denition. A revised USP (RUSP) scale was
developed and puried, resulting in ve dimensions that were
consistent with our theoretical conceptualization. An application
study further demonstrated that a high or low level of RUSP
characteristics in an ad is associated with ad effectiveness measures.
Theoretical contributions, managerial applications, and future
research directions are discussed.
KEYWORDS
benet claim statement,
persuasion strategy, scale
development, unique selling
proposition
Introduction
Effective advertising should make a proposition to consumers: buy this product,
and you will obtain the specic benet (Reeves, 1961). According to Reeves, this
unique selling proposition (referred to hereafter as USP) is essential for advertisers
to create a meaningful way to set their product apart from those of competitors
and encourage people to buy the product. Since Reeves published the USP concept,
it has been recognized as one of the most inuential rational advertising philoso-
phies of the 1960s and one of the most important creative advertising persuasion
strategies since that time (Conley, Bican, & Ernst, 2013; Shirkhodaee & Rezaee,
2014). Empirical evidence shows that USP entices more favorable brand percep-
tions and greatly increases product trials if the correct benet is implied (Bao &
Shao, 2002).
USP has been a widely used creative strategy in advertising practice. A study
based on Frazers(1983) seven creative strategies used in advertising across the
USA and Australia found that the USP strategy is observed in approximately one-
fth of all effective commercials and ranks second in these creative strategies
(Frazer, Sheehan, & Patti, 2002). In particular, the USP could be effectively used as
a brand slogan (Petty, Leong, & Lwin, 2010). Because Reevess interest was the
CONTACT Yongge Niu niuyongge@gmail.com Department of Marketing and E-Commerce, Business School
of Sichuan University, Chengdu, PO Box 610064, China.
© 2016 Taylor & Francis
JOURNAL OF PROMOTION MANAGEMENT
2016, VOL. 22, NO. 6, 874896
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10496491.2016.1214209
commercial use of USP and he made little effort to reveal its theoretical underpin-
nings, his original conceptualization suffers from inherent limitations and
shortcomings.
First, the USP construct is not well dened. Saying that USP is a proposition for
uniqueness is a circular denition. The term being dened here is part of the de-
nition, which leads to a need for additional information and thus violates the prin-
ciple of providing new or useful information. Moreover, the denition does not
explain which attributes contribute to USP, nor does it describe an effective USP,
because what makes a proposition uniqueand what makes a product sellis
subject to further interpretation.
Second, the USP concept is based on practitioner experience and is drawn from
analytical reasoning. While the concept is intuitively obvious and is regarded as
axiomatic (Richardson & Cohen, 1993), it has undergone little theoretical deduc-
tion or empirical examination from a consumer perspective. To have explanatory
power, a valid construct must be capable of being operationalized. However, the
existing USP framework, which was proposed by Reeves (1961) and elaborated by
Richardson and Cohen (1993), measures nothing more than whether an ad
possesses a proposition and whether that proposition is unique. Because USP
domains have not been clearly delineated, measuring the effectiveness of a USP in
advertising without operationalized attributes that represent the key characteristics
of a USP is difcult or impossible.
Third, Reevess(1961) USP is relying on the following assumptions: (1) in the
same industry, the technological advance would build distinctive functional advan-
tages for a product, and such distinctive advantages could not be matched by com-
petitors in a given time period; (2) consumers are rational in decision-making and
interested in the tangible benet of a product. As such, a unique consumer benet
claimed in USP mainly refers to tangible or physical product characteristics. How-
ever, most consumer products currently have fewer genuine and tangible differen-
ces in their physical features or functional benets. With the rapid development of
technologies and shorter product lifecycle, latecomers possessing rapid learning
capabilities would quickly achieve similar functional attributes. Meanwhile, con-
sumers look for more than a functional benet in a product; their expectations
include the non-tangible or symbolic values that a product can offer. While Reeves
did not explicitly reject the use of feelings in advertising appeal, he considered
many ads based on an emotional approach or brand image to be dance and shine
but having no real content(Reeves, 1961, p. 52). The use of emotion, or using
advertising to evoke feelings about brands with a focus on brand image, evolved
during the 1970s and 1980s. For instance, research on experiential or hedonic
aspects of consumption (Hirschman & Holbrook, 1982) and a transformational
advertising approach (Puto & Wells, 1984) has extended the advertising focus
from consumer responses to functional benets to feelings and actual experience
of using the products. Such practices in advertising signal a need to update Reevess
assumptions to reect recent advancements in advertising theories and practices.
JOURNAL OF PROMOTION MANAGEMENT 875
To update the USP construct and measurement methods, this study develops a
revised USP scale (hereafter, RUSP) to distinguish it from Reevess(1961) frame-
work and measurement criteria. We conceptualized the RUSP in terms of the fol-
lowing assumptions. A RUSP should have one or more benet claim statements,
which can be expressed explicitly or implicitly, by words, partial words, a combina-
tion of words and pictures or a picture only (Reeves, 1961,p.6869). The RUSP
can be supported by either rational appeals or emotional appeals to elicit positive
consumer feelings. Therefore, the objective of this research is threefold. First, it
delineates the RUSP construct domains in a contemporary marketing context by
providing a new denition that can be operationalized in terms of measurable
attributes. Second, it develops a reliable and valid measurement scale with relevant
dimensions that can be quantied and applied in advertising research and practice.
Third, it examines the utility or application value of the RUSP construct and meas-
ures in identifying and evaluating an effective advertising in terms of traditional
advertising effectiveness measurement criteria.
Literature review and conceptual development
RUSP domain specication
To delineate the RUSP domains following the deductive approach, we began with
Reevess three-part USP framework. An extensive literature review was conducted
to identify relevant content of USP. The role of USP, according to Reeves (1961), is
to make potential consumers aware of the product and its characteristics (penetra-
tion or informational role) and to make potential consumers desire it (pull or
persuasive role). However, our dened RUSP domains extend Reevess original
focus on physical attributes to include psychological or symbolic attributes by
integrating later theoretical developments, such as brand image (Ogilvy, 1963),
resonance (Schwartz, 1973), positioning (Fuchs & Diamantopoulos, 2010; Ries &
Trout, 1981), transformational advertising (Puto & Wells, 1984), experiential con-
sumption theories (Hirschman & Holbrook 1982), emotional proposition selling
concept (Aitchison, 1999), and the reciprocal value proposition (Ballantyne, Frow,
Varey, & Payne, 2011).
An expert panel comprising this studys authors and three experienced advertis-
ing professors word independently to develop the RUSP denition and content
domains by referring to Reevess(1961) conceptualization and other relevant
advertising theories. Then, the team evaluated the proposed content domains. This
process was iterative and conducted three times per year over a three-year period.
The panel developed a denition and identied ve possible subdomains of the
RUSP construct. Building on the extant literature and aforementioned theoretical
background, the panel agreed that a benet claim statement in terms of the RUSP
construct domains should be (1) favorable to potential buyers, (2) perceived as sin-
cere and believable, (3) distinct from competitorsofferings, (4) meaningful and
compatible with consumer feelings and expectations, and (5) attractive and capable
876 Y. NIU AND C. L. WANG
of stimulating desirability for the brand. Next, a brief description of each RUSP
subdomain was sent to seven experienced advertising practitioners (two ad agency
CEOs, three creative directors and two copywriters) for further evaluation. The
RUSP subdomains and their theoretical underpinnings were specied as follows.
Favorability
The benet claimed in the statement should be likable and favorable to potential
consumers. Favorability, as dened in this study, refers to the extent to which con-
sumers positively regard the USPs in advertising. According to the cognitive
response model, persuasion in advertising reects the net favorability of the cogni-
tive responses that people experience as they encounter a message. Given that the
RUSP is rooted in a persuasion-oriented advertising philosophy, it should be capa-
ble of increasing consumersfavorable attitudes toward the ad and the advertised
brand (Campbell & Kirmani, 2000). If a consumer is pleased with the content of a
RUSP, then communications related to the RUSP may have a higher likelihood of
being believed, as predicted by the pleasure-arousal-dominance (PAD) theory
(Mehrabian & Russell, 1974). As such, favorability will further serve as the gate-
keeper and determinant of the remainder of the communication process. For
example, Virginia is for loversad is using emotional appeals to increase tourists
favorability (Pike & Page, 2014). Given consumerslimited memory, a change in
judgment can occur when information held in memory is augmented or sup-
planted by information that is more or less favorable toward the object of advocacy
(Kiselius & Sternthal, 1984), and consumers will store more positive information in
their memory. Consequently, a RUSP with favorability characteristics (e.g., vivid,
positive, pleasant) can increase the levels of consumer attention and information
processing, facilitate memory organization, enhance stimulus encoding and hence
improve brand learning and brand recall (Isen, 2001).
Believability
In terms of the reality in advertising principle (Reeves, 1961), a benet claim state-
ment should be perceived as credible and believable instead of misleading or fraud-
ulent (Adebola, Talabi, & Lamidi, 2012; Lee, 2014). Believability, which is an
important indicator of communications effectiveness, reects the extent to which
an ad claim is capable of evoking sufcient condence in its truthfulness to render
it useful to consumers (OCass, 2002). Consumers are not likely to respond to
advertising in the desired manner if they do not believe what it claims. If a RUSP is
believable, the likelihood that the consumers acquire the information for process-
ing is enhanced. If consumer thinks RUSP is believable, then the consumer
attaches high weight to it and vice versa; the more the weight the greater the
impact of the RUSP and the likelihood of success of the communication output
(Talabi & Adebola, 2012). In this regard, a RUSP should be credible, reliable and
dependable so that it conveys a promise to potential consumers that the brand
JOURNAL OF PROMOTION MANAGEMENT 877
does things a certain way and consumers will obtain certain results. Reeves empha-
sized that the USP to the consumer should not be show-window advertising that
has no real content or message but rather gimmicks or pufferies: To make a claim
that the product does not possess merely increases the frequency with which the
consumer observes its absence(p. 61). For example, Red Bullsadvertising slogan
claimed that the caffeinated soft drink gives you wings, but it was sued for falsely
claiming their product. Red Bull was forced to settle the case out of court, pledging
to refund $10 to any U.S. customer who bought the drink since 2002 and agreeing
to amend future advertising (Duggan, 2014).
Distinctiveness
By its denition, the RUSP must be unique and distinctive from competitorsofferings.
According to Reeves (1961), such a benet claim should be original in that competitors
either cannot or do not offer the same benet. Stewart and Furse (1986) further argued
that a commercial message must explicitly indicate the uniqueness or difference of the
product to achieve advertising effectiveness. Distinctiveness refers to the extent that a
rm creates something tangible or intangible that is perceived as being unique by at
least one set of customers. Experimental evidence supports that a unique proposition is
especially effective if it cannot be easily matched by competitors (Armstrong & Patnaik,
2009). As an update of Reevess criteria, a distinctive RUSP will include both physical
attributes and psychological experiences, appeal to both utilitarian and self-expressive
values and thus be suitable for both high-tech and low-tech products. This update is
critical in contemporary advertising practices, considering that any physical difference
in products can quickly be matched by competitors, but the brands symbolic or self-
expressive function is an effective marketing tool for brand identication. Indeed, dif-
ferent feelings may be idiosyncratically linked to specic person-brand autobiographic
meanings and their prominence (Park, MacInnis, Priester, Eisingerich, & Iacobucci,
2010). This assertion is particularly true for competing brands in the same product cate-
gory, where brands can share similar functional attributes. A transformational adver-
tisement, for example, can distinguish a brand from competing brands by associating
the experience of using the advertised brand with a unique set of psychological charac-
teristics that is different from those obtained using other similar brands. For example,
Nike Football Launches Risk Everythingcampaign, which features the pressure felt by
some of the worlds greatest players as they prepare to play on the worlds biggest stage.
This creates a unique and distinctive image in consumersmind.
Compatibility
An effective RUSP must meaningfully communicate that potential buyers will nd
the promised benet compatible with their personal experience and expectations.
Reeves (1961) articulated this principle: Think of a USP not so much as some-
thing you put into an advertisement. Think of a USP rather as something the con-
sumer takes out of an advertisement(p. 67). This principle requires advertisers to
878 Y. NIU AND C. L. WANG
understand particular expectations and psychographics of the target market. Com-
patibility reects a connection between brand benets and consumer experience,
feelings and expectations to generate resonance and emotional bonds. If the new
message is compatible with existing consumer beliefs and expectations, it will be
more likely to nd a place in the cognitive structure of what people think they
know or in the affective structure of how they feel about a product/service
(Maloney, 1963). An ad can pull viewers into the advertised brand by making
them feel as though they are experiencing what is happening in the ad, by remind-
ing them of experiences from their own lives or even by presenting an experience
they would like to have in the future. Meanwhile, according to the perceptual
defense theory (i.e., selective attention, selective perception, and selective recall),
the advertisement will only be effective when the elicited consumer experience is
compatible with the consumers expectations (Bauer, 1963). In terms of the
resonance strategy,advertising seeks to present circumstances, situations or
emotions that have a counterpart in the real or imaged experience of consumers.
To achieve such an objective, the communicator must deeply understand the
kinds of information and experiences stored in audiences mind, the patterning of
this information, and the interactive resonance process whereby stimuli evoke this
stored information(Schwartz, 1973, p. 25). This compatibility principle reects
the research nding from psychographic and lifestyle analyses that demonstrated
the ability to evoke or match a patterned experience that exists among consumer
groups (Frazer, 1983). As such, an effective RUSP should be able to connect benet
claims with consumer wishes and expectations based on emotional bond that is
built with the brand. For example, the McDonaldsim lovinitad campaign
connects its brand and its target consumers by depicting how people live, what
they love about life and what they love about McDonalds.
Attractiveness
The benet claimed in an ad should be attractive and appealing to potential consumers
to attract people to the usage of your product(Reeves, 1961,p.10).Asnotedby
Reeves, an advertising campaign that delivers more leverage in usage pull is of interest
to the reader(p. 49). Attractiveness is the power that makes the claimed benetirre-
sistible to consumers and motivates consumers to act. What attracts potential buyers,
however, need not be the physical attributes or utilitarian benets of a product; attrac-
tive factors may also include hedonic feelings (e.g., fun and fantasy) or symbolic mean-
ings (e.g., social status and self-image) because brand value creation includes core
functionality as well as emotional values (Leavitt, 1983). As such, an attractive RUSP
can be an image or a symbol embodied in an advertisement to arouse consumer values.
Here, consumer values, such as enjoyment, self-actualization and career accomplish-
ment, refer to the important personal goals that consumers are seeking. A companys
offerings have value to the extent that consumers can use them as inputs to leverage
their own value creation (Normann & Ramirez, 1993). If a RUSP facilitates consumers
JOURNAL OF PROMOTION MANAGEMENT 879
value-creation activities and offers consumers desirable, useful or important benets, it
will be attractive to consumers. Such a RUSP will be powerful in captivating and stimu-
lating consumer desire and inuencing customers to purchase the advertised product.
A classic successful story in U.S. advertising history is the creation of the Marlboro
Man image, which promotes and disseminates the attractive values of masculinity, her-
oism, adventure, freedom, and independence that fulll a consumersfantasy.
Pilot study: Item generation
In item generation, the primary concern is content validity, which is considered to
be the minimum psychometric requirement for measurement adequacy so that the
measure captures the specic domain of interest yet contains no extraneous con-
tent (Schriesheim, Powers, Scandura, Gardiner, & Lankau, 1993). Such an
approach requires an understanding of the phenomenon to be investigated and a
thorough review of the literature to develop the theoretical denition and domain,
which are then used as a guide in developing the items (Wang, Bristol, Mowen, &
Chakraborty, 2000). A domain sampling method was used by randomly selecting a
specied number of measures from a homogeneous, innitely large pool (Nunnally
& Bernstein, 1994, p. 217). Both adequate domain sampling and parsimony are
important to obtain content and construct validity.
Items were generated from a large pool using three methods to ensure that the best
indicators within the domain of interest were included. First, a comprehensive review
of the USP literature was conducted to collect all possible adjectives that described the
RUSP construct in terms of the denition and domains identied above. Second, this
procedure was complemented by thesaurus searches to generate additional synonyms
in each identied subdomain so that more candidates could be identied.Third,afree
association method was used with a sample of 12 undergraduate students (7 males and
5 females) at a Chinese university to generate additional items that may have been
missed in the rst two methods. The participants were asked to write down any terms
that came to mind when they were exposed to two advertisements that were selected
based on the USP evaluation criteria (Richardson & Cohen, 1993), anchored at 1 (no
proposition ) and 7 (strong proposition that is unique). The rst ad was for Jinsangzi (a
Chinese sore throat reliever), which claimed a unique proposition that is appealing and
attractive to Chinese consumers who have a favorable attitude toward Chinese tradi-
tional medicine: Jinsangzian integration of Western science and Chinese traditional
medicine. Instant resultleaving your sore throat behind.This claim offers a utilitar-
ian appeal: solving the consumers sore throat problem instantly. The second ad was
for Nike athletic shoes, which claimed a distinctive and self-expressive value of achieve-
ment: Just do it and your dreams will come true.This claim uses experiential appeal
instead. These two ads were selected because they were by well-known brands that pos-
sessed a high market share in China (given that the research context was China and
that Chinese consumer samples were used) and were familiar to participants. The
familiar brands were used as stimulus brands in this study because consumers are more
880 Y. NIU AND C. L. WANG
likely to recall the familiar brands ad information (Kent & Allen, 1994)andfamiliar
brands require less consumers processing efforts (brands serve as heuristic cues) so that
consumer would pay more attention to the RUSP claims (the central information).
According to the principles of heuristic-systematic theory of information processing
(Chaiken & Ledgerwood, 2012), when participants employ brand names as heuristic
cues, they tend to involve deep levels of engagement with the RUSP information. As a
result, an initial set of 131 items was generated after the content validity was examined
and redundant items were eliminated by researchers and the expert panel.
To reduce the 131 items to a more manageable number, 35 MBA students attending
a Chinese university (average age D31) were recruited for the pilot study. The partici-
pants were rst briefed about the RUSP concept and its domains with demonstrations
of two sample ads, using the same selection process described above. One ad was for
Mercedes-Benz (a high-involvement product, a luxury car): Unlike any other,
Mercedes-Benz. The future of the automobile engineered to move the human spirit.
Another ad was for Haitian Soy Sauce (a low-involvement product, a salty condiment):
The familiar taste trusted by thousands of families. HaitianThe world of delicious-
ness.Then, participants were asked to evaluate the 131 items in terms of the extent to
which they agreed that each item t their perception of a typical RUSP, using ratings
on a seven-point scale from not at all agreeableto extremely agreeable.Based on a
cut-off score of ve, this procedure further excluded 90 items, leaving a shortened list of
41 items.
Next, an open-card sorting technique was performed to verify the content valid-
ity of the RUSP construct by three advertising professors and seven advertising
practitioners who had participated in RUSP domain specication. Each of the 41
items was sorted according to its relevance to each of the ve RUSP subdomains
or a possible new domain yet to be identied. After three rounds of iterative pro-
cesses, most items t neatly into each of the ve subdomains with the exception of
several items that showed overlapping subdomains, and no new dimensions were
found. We deleted the items that cross-loaded onto more than one subdomain,
which resulted in 35 items used in the main study.
Study 1: Scale development
The objective of the Study 1 was to examine the dimensionality of the 35 items
generated in the pilot study by purifying the scale items with an exploratory and
conrmatory factor analysis. The internal consistency, test-retest reliability, and
initial evidence of construct validity were also examined.
Sample
Participants were recruited from among subscribers of the most popular instant
messaging computer program in China: Tencent QQ (generally referred to as
QQ). With a stratied probability sampling method, we included all users with a
JOURNAL OF PROMOTION MANAGEMENT 881
registration number between 100,000 to 200,000,000 as our sample frame and
selected 10,000 QQ users.
Fifty undergraduate students at a Chinese university were trained as inter-
viewers for this research project. After deleting QQ users whose registered age was
under 18 and invalid user numbers, 6,218 valid users were retained and added as
QQ friendsby interviewers. During the two-week interview period, interviews
were successfully completed with 337 informants. After discarding 27 question-
naires with errors or missing data, we received 310 valid questionnaires. Table 1
summarizes the demographic information of the participants who completed the
questionnaire.
The T-test results indicate that the mean responses on any item of the early
respondents (the rst third of respondents who returned the questionnaires) and
late respondents (the last third) did not signicantly differ (aD0.05). Therefore,
this study showed no evidence of nonresponse bias.
Procedures
A pool of advertisements from four brands (Motorola, Samsung, Coca-Cola and
Unif Orangeate) was evaluated by a group of 35 MBA students in terms of
Richardson and Cohens(1993) framework to determine whether the ads pos-
sessed a strong and unique proposition. Given the purpose of the study is to
develop a RUSP scale, the stimulus ads scoring high with respect to RUSP criteria
were selected in order to capture key attributes and conceptualized domains of
RUSP. Meanwhile, the stimulus ads also reected different appeals: that is, they
Table 1. Sample demographics for Study 1 and Study 2.
Study 1 (nD310) Scale development
sample
Study 2 (nD317) Scale validation
sample
Gender
Men 159 (51.3%) 154 (48.6%)
Women 151 (48.7%) 163 (51.4%)
Age
1824 years 85 (27.4%) 87 (27.4%)
2534 years 98 (31.6%) 99 (31.2%)
3544 years 78 (25.2%) 80 (25.2%)
4554 years 37 (11.9%) 39 (12.3%)
55 years or more 12 (3.9%) 12 (3.8%)
Education
Less than or high school graduate 55 (17.7%) 54 (17.0%)
Some college 97 (31.3%) 101 (31.9%)
Bachelors degree 131 (42.3%) 133 (42.0%)
Graduate degree 27 (8.7%) 29 (9.1%)
Individual monthly income RMB(US
Dollar)
Less than 2000 (298.5) 58 (18.7%) 61 (19.2%)
20004000 (298.5597.0) 121 (39.0%) 122 (38.5%)
40006000 (597.0-895.5) 78 (25.2%) 77 (24.3%)
60008000 (895.51194.0) 35 (11.3%) 38 (12.0%)
More than 8000 (1194.0) 18 (5.8%) 19 (6.0%)
Note.
Based on the exchange rate of $1 DRMB 6.7 at the time the data was collected.
882 Y. NIU AND C. L. WANG
claimed physical benets (functional attributes) or promised psychological benets
(emotional values) to consumers.
During the online interview process, informants were rst exposed to the four
brands, which represented two high-involvement products (mobile phone brands)
and two low-involvement products (soft drink brands). The participants were then
asked to choose any one brand that they had not owned or purchased in the past
month. A confounding check in Study 1 showed no signicant differences in brand
familiarity among groups who responded to different stimulus products.
Results
Exploratory factor analysis
Following the standard scale development paradigm, we conducted a series of iter-
ative exploratory factor analyses (EFA) of the 35 items using principal component
analysis (promax rotation) with the rst half of the data (nD155). The analysis
shows a Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) measure of sampling adequacy value of .92
and a signicance level of Bartletts test of sphericity of .00, indicating that the data
are suitable for the application of factor analysis. The initial factor analysis resulted
in seven factors with eigenvalues greater than 1.00. The seven-factor solution
accounted for 68.21% of the total variance in the data. We eliminated 17 items that
had factor loadings below .50 and communalities below .50, resulting in a ve-fac-
tor solution that explained 71.96% of the total variance. The ve factors were clean
and easy to interpret and showed that each item loaded on one factor, with factor
loadings exceeding .51 and no cross-loading above .40. Cronbachsalphas
exceeded .80 for all ve factors, which were higher than the recommended level of
.70, indicating adequate reliability. Table 2 summarizes the factor analysis results
with the ve dimensions: favorability (factor 1), believability (factor 2), distinc-
tiveness (factor 3), compatibility (factor 4), and attractiveness (factor 5). The
emerged ve dimensions were consistent with our purported measure of the con-
struct in terms of our conceptualized domains, providing supportive evidence of
construct validity and indicating the scale nicely t our theoretical denition and
domain.
Conrmatory factor analysis
In an effort to further evaluate the 18-item scale and its ve dimensions, a series of
conrmatory factor models was examined using the second half of the data set
(nD155). The overall model t was x
2
D256.51, df D125, p<.05, CFI D.96,
NFI D.92, NNFI D.95 and SRMR D.066 (below the .08 threshold). The signi-
cant x
2
-test observed here might reect sensitivity to the sample size instead of an
invalid model. As such, the x
2
-test is not regarded as a key indicator to assess the
hypothesized model in practice. One recommended approach to address this issue
is to use the x
2
-test to compare the 18-item ve-factor model and the 17-item ve-
factor model. Based on the more conservative cut-off point of a loading of .60 or
JOURNAL OF PROMOTION MANAGEMENT 883
higher, all items were retained except the item realistic(factor loading D.58).
The overall model t for the 17-item ve-factor solution was x
2
D223.70, df D
109, p<.05; CFI D.96, NFI D.93, NNFI D.95 and SRMR D.066. All items had
loadings of .61 or greater on the specied factors. The improved results imply that
the 17-item ve-factor model better t the data than the 18-item model (Dx
2
(125-
109) DDx
2
(16) D32.81 (p<0.01).
Factor reliabilities
Cronbachsalphas, which ranged from .75 (factor 4) to .84 (factor 1), demon-
strated adequate reliability for all factors. Furthermore, the inter-item and item-to-
total correlations for each factor exceeded the suggested level, which implied that
all items of the model demonstrated a satisfactory t. Finally, the average variance
extracted (AVE) ranged from .51 (factor 1) to .61 (factor 5), and all values
exceeded the .50 threshold. These ndings imply that the items adequately repre-
sented the ve factors, with a sufcient reliability on each factor.
Factor discriminant validity
First, correlations between factors ranged from .56 to .74, and none of the con-
dence intervals (C/2 standard errors) between two factors included 1.00. Second,
Table 2. Scale Components based on Factor Analysis (Promax Rotation with Kaiser Normalization).
Items
Factor 1
aD.84
Factor 2
aD.84
Factor 3
aD.86
Factor 4
aD.80
Factor 5
aD.80 h
2
Favorability
Vivid .933 ¡.125 .120 ¡.070 ¡.074 .780
Positive .817 ¡.085 ¡.037 .225 ¡.067 .722
Approachable .601 .092 ¡.030 .249 .004 .611
Pleasant .531 .145 ¡.120 .293 .119 .646
Commendable .507 .337 .193 ¡.361 .117 .610
Believability
Assured ¡.066 .988 ¡.082 ¡.023 ¡.034 .807
Realistic
a
.112 .775 ¡.100 ¡.025 .061 .642
Reliable .025 .758 .007 .048 .097 .727
Dependable ¡.244 .630 .388 .229 ¡.198 .699
Distinctiveness
Distinctive .086 .059 .871 ¡.067 ¡.035 .809
Innovative ¡.064 ¡.096 .863 .200 ¡.018 .781
Original .132 ¡.044 .752 .004 .077 .713
Compatibility
Sympatric compatible .124 ¡.014 .137 .771 ¡.082 .745
Meaningful to me .243 ¡.007 ¡.010 .748 ¡.047 .725
emotionally bonded ¡.155 .054 .027 .698 .270 .680
Attractiveness
Desirable ¡.051 .061 ¡.245 .123 .906 .757
Tempting ¡.011 ¡.038 .223 ¡.132 .851 .807
Captivating ¡.016 ¡.074 .288 .162 .606 .690
Eigenvalue 8.089 1.543 1.175 1.087 1.058
Percentage of variance 44.940 8.574 6.527 6.038 5.878
Cumulative percentage 44.940 53.514 60.042 66.080 71.957
Note. The above 17 items can be used to measure the effectiveness of RUSP in an ad, e.g., a benet statement con-
veyed in an advertising is __ (i.e., vivid): Not at all agreeable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Extremely agreeable.
a
This item was
deleted in the following conrmatory factor analysis.
884 Y. NIU AND C. L. WANG
constraining the correlations for all factor pairs (the correlation of every possible
ve-factor pair was 1: i.e., 10 pairs) and comparing the x
2
of the constrained and
unconstrained model indicated that all x
2
-differences were signicant (p<.001).
These ndings indicate that each factor was signicantly different from all others,
which supported the discriminant validity of the ve factors.
Test-retest reliability
Five weeks later, the test-retest reliability of the remaining 17 items was examined
over a randomly selected subset of 90 participants from the original 310 partici-
pants. The 17-item scales were administered with the same stimulus RUSP to the
same participants. As 33 participants were lost to attrition, only 57 valid question-
naires were collected in test-retest reliability analysis. The average Pearson correla-
tion between Time 1 and Time 2 on the 17 items was .83, ranging from .62 to .93.
The test-retest correlations for each of the ve factors ranged from .77 (factor 4) to
.84 (factor 3), and all exceeded the .70 criteria.
Study 2: Scale validation
The objective of Study 2 was twofold. First, this study reassessed the trait validity,
including reliability, dimensionality, convergent validity and discriminant validity,
using a new sample. Second, it employed the RUSP scale in a context that would
reveal its relationship with other theoretically related constructs to examine the
predictive validity of the measures.
Participants and procedures
We continued to randomly select 10,000 QQ users from the same sample frame,
excluding those users who had been selected in Study 1. After eliminating invalid
user numbers and users under the age of 18, our interviewers added the remaining
6,408 users as QQ friends. Over the two-week period, our interviewers received
317 valid questionnaires from participants with various demographic backgrounds,
as shown in Table 1.
The same procedures were followed in a validation study. A pool of actual
advertisements from four well-known brands (China Mobile, China Unicom,
McDonalds, and Kentucky Fried Chicken) was evaluated with the goal of selecting
the ads that would score high on USP criteria (Richardson & Cohen, 1993). These
ads varied according to the involvement level of the depicted product, and they
reected different (e.g., utilitarian or value-expressive) appeals. A confounding
check in Study 2 showed that the brand familiarity did not signicantly differ
among groups who responded to different stimulus services. The participants were
asked to read a given advertising statement and were then prompted to rate the
extent to which each of the scale items described the ad statement according to a
seven-point scale. The questionnaire was pretested on 50 MBA students and
revised accordingly in terms of wording and response format because new
JOURNAL OF PROMOTION MANAGEMENT 885
measurement scales were added to Study 2. For different testing purposes, the nal
questionnaire contained the 17-item RUSP scale and other relevant measures, as
discussed in the following section. In addition, evidence of a nonresponse bias was
not found in this study.
Results
Conrmatory factor analysis
Overall model t. The t statistics suggested a good model t: x
2
D472.07, df D
109, p<.05; CFI D.97, NFI D.96, NNFI D.96 and SRMR D.061. All items had
loadings of .60 or higher on the specied factors. The results imply that the ve-
factor, 17-item model adequately ts the new data, which supports the content
domains delineated in Study 1.
Scale and factor reliabilities. Cronbachsalpha was .94 for the RUSP scale and
ranged from .79 (factor 5) to .91 (factor 2), which indicated adequate construct
reliabilities. The AVE values, which ranged from .56 (factor 5) to .78 (factor 2), all
exceeded the .50 threshold. Finally, the inter-item and item-to-total correlations
for each factor exceeded the recommended level. The results suggest that all items
of the model demonstrated a satisfactory t.
Discriminant Validity of the Factors. The evidence of discriminant validity
between the ve factors emerged from the test in which the condence interval
(C/2 standard errors) of the correlation estimate between two factors did not
include 1.00.
Construct convergent validity
Participants were asked to rate the extent to which they perceived the ad to be
effective, from 1 Dnot at all effectiveto 7 Dextremely effective.The ads were
then divided into three groups (low, medium and high) in terms of their overall
effectiveness ratings. The ANOVA results showed signicant differences across the
three groups in their composite RUSP scores (F
(2,314)
D93.69, p<.001), which
supports the convergent validity of the RUSP scale.
Construct discriminant validity
We constrained the correlations for all variable pairs and compared the x
2
of the
constrained and unconstrained models. The results showed that the RUSPs corre-
lations with ADTRUST (Soh, Reid, & King, 2009) and A
ad
(Mackenzie, Lutz, &
Belch, 1986) were .79 and .60, respectively, and that all x
2
-differences were signi-
cant (p<.001). These results support the discriminant validity of the RUSP scale.
Predictive validity
The RUSP is expected to be positively associated with the outcome variables, which
include purchase intention and referral intention. Participants were asked to
respond to two single-item nominal measures (yes/no): (1) whether they would
886 Y. NIU AND C. L. WANG
purchase the advertised service and (2) whether they would recommend the adver-
tised service to their friends. The results of a binary logistic regression model indi-
cated that the RUSP scores positively correlated with both purchase intention (bD
.55, Wald x
2
D22.41, p<.001) and referral intention (bD.96, Wald x
2
D50.92,
p<.001). These results provide evidence of the predictive validity of the RUSP
scale.
This study included only participants who had not purchased the stimulus ser-
vice in the past month to control for the potential effects of use. Therefore, some
participants likely did not currently need to purchase the advertised service but
found the RUSP in the ad to be attractive or impressive. As a result, the higher
association of RUSP with referral intention than with purchase intention may
reect that some participants had a low need to purchase the service but were
more willing to recommend it to other consumers if they were persuaded by the
RUSP in the ad. For example, a middle-aged Chinese woman may have no interest
in purchasing McDonalds for herself, but she may be willing to refer the brand to
her family or children if she nds the RUSP appealing. In this regard, a successful
RUSP may have the power to inuence word-of-mouth communications and
attract new consumers to the product offering (Reeves, 1961).
Study 3: Scale application
Study 3 attempted to apply the RUSP scale to identify and evaluate ads with high
vs. low RUSP characteristics and measure advertising effectiveness. In particular,
the objectives of this applied study were (1) to employ the RUSP scale to evaluate
ads of both utilitarian and value-expressive appeals based on ve RUSP dimen-
sions and (2) to demonstrate the utility of RUSP in measuring advertising effec-
tiveness in terms of the relationship between the RUSP construct and traditional
measures of ad effects, such as ad recognition, message comprehension, persuasion
effect, attitude-toward-ad and attitude-toward-brand.
Method
Pretest
A pretest was conducted with a sample of 50 undergraduate students to select stim-
ulus ads for this applied study. First, participants were asked to select products that
represented either utilitarian or hedonic products. As a result, an over-the-counter
cold medicine brand, Contac NT, was selected as a utilitarian product due to its
obvious pain-relieving function. A high-end liquor brand, Guojiao 1573 (priced
between US $200 and $700 for a 500 ML bottle), was selected as a hedonic product
because liquor consumption offers broad possibilities for enjoyment and apprecia-
tion. Both brands are well known among Chinese consumers.
Next, participants were briefed about the meanings and criteria of a RUSP to
evaluate an advertisement. Then, participants watched four different versions of
Contac NT TV ads (each 30 seconds in length) and were exposed to four Guojiao
JOURNAL OF PROMOTION MANAGEMENT 887
1573 colored print ads of the same size but with different contents. After partici-
pants were exposed to all of the ads three times, they were asked to give an overall
RUSP rating on a seven-point scale based on the benet claim statement presented
in each ad. The ads that scored highest and lowest in each product category were
selected to represent high and low RUSP ads, resulting in two pairs of ads that
were used as stimulus ads in the experiments. After the participants provided their
ratings, they were further interviewed to determine why they considered an ad to
have low or high RUSP characteristics (these responses are further described in the
Discussion section).
Brief descriptions of the benet claim statements in the four selected ads are
given as follows: (1) Low-RUSP Contac NT TV Ad: Effective against colds for
12 hours. One for morning and one for evening. Do not give a cold a chance. (2)
High RUSP Contac NT TV ad: Cold symptoms vary in different people and need
to be treated differently. Blue Contac pills stop sneezing and a stuffy or runny
nose. Red Contac pills work for high fevers, severe sore throat and myalgia. Do not
give a cold a chance. (3) Low-RUSP Guojiao 1573 Print Ad: A red lantern (a sym-
bol of happiness and fortune) is hanging at the top right, with the Guojiao 1573
brand name displayed in the middle. The tagline reads: Have fortune all the way
on your journey and everything goes well!(4) High-RUSP Guojiao 1573 Print Ad:
On the blue color background (symbolizing immortality and high social status)
one Guojiao 1573 bottle acts like a king and wears gold robes, safe-guarded by his
knight and rook. The tagline reads: Caesar the Greatand majestic demeanor.
Research design
We separately conducted two experiments for Contac NT (the ad for a utilitarian
product) and Guojiao (the ad for a hedonic product), with a one-way between-
subject design. The participants were MBA students who are working professio-
nals. The samples were compatible in terms of size (nD106), age (mean D32),
and gender ratio (55 males for Contac NT and 57 males for Guojiao 1573) for the
two experiments.
Measures
Ad recognition is considered a better measure than ad recall, because it does not
require participants to play back something they may have nearly forgotten (Heath
& Hyder, 2005). Ad recognition was measured by the number of facts presented in
the stimulus ad that a respondent could accurately identify from multiple-choice
items. The questions covered major features of the ad, including the main charac-
ter, location, scenes, stage props and background color.
Message comprehension was measured in the same way by questions related to
the ad theme or the content of the tagline or slogan (Stewart & Furse, 1986)to
determine whether respondents understood the meaning of the ad and its RUSP
because message comprehension is normally conceptualized as the extracting
predetermined meanings from the ad. Both ad recognition and message
888 Y. NIU AND C. L. WANG
comprehension were measured by telephone interview three days after the experi-
ment was conducted, and respondents were asked to identify the correct answer
from four choices (only one answers was correct). The response rate was 95.3% for
Contac NT and 92.5% for Guojiao.
The persuasion effect was measured by the change in brand preference (before
and after the ad exposure) over a two-hour interval, during which time other tasks
were performed (following Stewart & Furse, 1986). A
ad
was measured by four
semantic differential items adapted from Mackenzie et al. (1986). A
br
was assessed
by four semantic differential items anchored by high quality-low quality, desirable-
not desirable, unique-not unique and useful-not useful (Peterson, Wilson, &
Brown, 1992).
Results
Based on the measure of utilitarian versus hedonic values (Spangenberg, Voss, &
Crowley, 1997), the results of the paired sample T-test indicated that the Contac
NT ad evoked stronger utilitarian feelings (MD4.35, SD D1.48) than hedonic
feelings (MD2.17, SD D1.00) (t
105
D14.98, p<.001), and the Guojiao 1573 ad
evoked stronger hedonic feelings (MD4.38, SD D1.46) than utilitarian feelings
(MD3.21, SD D1.24) (t
105
D7.04, p<.001). These results suggest that the two
pairs of ads were appropriately representative of utilitarian appeal and hedonic
appeal (Johar & Sirgy, 1991).
The ANOVA results showed that participants in the high-RUSP ad condition
scored signicantly higher on the composite RUSP scale than those in the low-
RUSP ad condition in both experiments (MD4.43 vs. 3.85; F
(1,104)
D12.42, p<
.01, for Contac ads) and (MD4.60 vs. 3.23; F
(1,104)
D49.52, p<.001, for Guojiao
ads). These results not only show that the experiment manipulation was successful
but also demonstrate that the composite RUSP scale can be successfully used to
identify and evaluate ads with high or low RUSP characteristics.
A preliminary test showed that gender and age did not signicantly impact any
dependent measures; thus, these two demographic variables were excluded from
further analysis. Ad familiarity, brand familiarity, and prior purchase were
included as covariates in the multivariate analysis of variances to control their
potential impact.
The MANCOVA results for both the Contac NT and Guojiao 1573 experiments
showed signicant effects of the RUSP (low versus high) ad conditions on depen-
dent measures in the expected direction. The univariate tests, as shown in Table 3,
indicated that participants in the high-RUSP ad condition scored signicantly
higher in ad recognition, message comprehension, persuasion, A
ad
and A
br
com-
pared to those in the low-RUSP ad condition. These results indicate that an ad pos-
sessing high RUSP characteristics positively affects the measures of ad
effectiveness. These effects were consistent across informational ads (for a utilitar-
ian product) and transformational ads (for a hedonic product).
JOURNAL OF PROMOTION MANAGEMENT 889
Discussion
The ve dimensions of the RUSP scale adequately captured the differences between
a high- and low-RUSP ad (Table 3). In particular, all ve dimensions distinguished
between the two Guojiao 1573 ads with high RUSP characteristics vs. low RUSP
characteristics. In interviews after the experiments were completed, participants
indicated that the high-RUSP Guojiao 1573 ad was more appealing to them
because it featured a social status symbol and a high-class lifestyle (success,
achievement, victory, and dignity). This emotional appeal is more relevant and
compatible with the target market segment that tends to display unique and elite
lifestyle by consumption of expensive high-end liquor. For example, the partici-
pants indicated that the ad demonstrated the brands features as being unique or
one-of-a-kind(distinctive),commendable(favorable), desirable (attractive),t-
ting ones lifestyle and social identity (compatible), and impressiveand convinc-
ing(believable). In contrast, the feelings of joy, happiness and good fortune
highlighted in the low-RUSP Guojiao 1573 ad are also positive emotions, but they
do not t the brand image and target markets expectation for the advertising
brand. This gap is especially present with respect to the Chinese culture, in which
onesmianzi(face) plays an important role in social situations. Serving high-end
liquor that is a status symbol at a banquet shows respect to guests. However, feel-
ings of joy are common to all types of liquor consumption within family and social
gatherings; thus, these feelings cannot distinguish high-end liquor from low-end
liquor. Consequently, participants described this ad as too commonand rou-
tine(that is, it had low distinctiveness and attractiveness). For the Contac NT ads,
three RUSP dimensions (distinctiveness, compatibility and attractiveness) success-
fully distinguished between the ads having high vs. low RUSP characteristics. In
terms of the interview results, participants indicated that the high-RUSP ad was
suitable for people of different needs(distinctive), relevant(compatible) and
more effective(attractive). However, two dimensions (favorability and
Table 3. Mean differences between high RUSP vs. low RUSP ad conditions.
Contac NT (OTC cold medicine) Guojiao 1573 (high-end liquor)
High-RUSP Low-RUSP High-RUSP Low-RUSP
Dependent measures Mean (SD) Mean (SD) Fh2 Mean (SD) Mean (SD) Fh2
Recognition 3.45 (.92) 2.59 (1.04) 9.89

.09 1.74 (.57) 1.44 (.50) 7.28

.07
Comprehension 1.78 (.54) 1.10 (.71) 14.49

.13 1.87 (.34) 1.29 (.67) 13.86

.13
Persuasion .33 (.48) .12 (.33) 4.59
.05 .30 (.47) ¡.02 (.31) 10.53

.10
A
ad
4.66 (.80) 3.97 (.99) 7.04

.07 4.78 (.88) 3.43 (1.23) 24.94

.21
A
br
4.48 (.85) 3.96 (.75) 5.72
.06 5.03 (.78) 4.25 (1.26) 11.78

.11
Composite RUSP score 4.43 (.90) 3.85 (.78) 12.42

.11 4.60 (.89) 3.23 (1.11) 49.52

.32
Favorability 4.71 (1.10) 4.51 (1.23) .78 .01 4.28 (1.25) 3.62 (1.39) 6.43
.06
Believability 4.43 (1.11) 4.19 (1.00) 1.44 .01 5.01 (1.04) 3.69 (1.55) 26.15

.20
Distinctiveness 5.11 (1.30) 3.98 (1.47) 17.46

.14 4.99 (1.07) 3.22 (1.32) 57.39

.36
Compatibility 4.14 (1.00) 3.38 (.87) 17.20

.14 4.27(1.18) 2.69 (1.23) 49.81

.32
Attractiveness 3.58(1.37) 2.78(1.02) 11.79

.10 4.70(1.43) 2.67(1.34) 57.31

.36
Note.
p<.05.

p<.01.

p<.001.
890 Y. NIU AND C. L. WANG
believability) showed no signicant differences between the two Contac NT ads.
This nding may be explained by the fact that cold medicine is a low involvement
and utilitarian product; its problem-solving function (believability) and its vivid
effect (favorability) are demonstrated in both ads to a similar degree.
General discussions
Conclusions
This empirical research reports the development, validation and application of an
instrument that measures the revised unique selling proposition (RUSP) construct.
Following the domain sampling approach, Study 1 rened the 35 items from the
pilot study to 17 items. Five dimensions emerged during this process: favorability,
believability, distinctiveness, compatibility and attractiveness. These dimensions
were consistent with theoretically dened RUSP domains, and they demonstrated
appropriate content validity. The results of the EFA and CFA demonstrated the
adequate dimensionality, reliability and validity of the scale. In addition, evidence
of discriminant validity and test-retest reliability was provided.
In Study 2, a new data set was collected to validate the RUSP scale. The results
from the CFA demonstrated a good t for the overall model. These ndings repli-
cated the results found in Study 1. Additional evidence strongly supported the
RUSP scales convergent, discriminant, and predictive validity.
Study 3 served an application of the RUSP scale to identify and evaluate an ads
possession of RUSP characteristics. It demonstrated that the RUSP scale and its
ve dimensions successfully distinguished ads of high and low RUSP characteris-
tics. More importantly, the results from two experiments showed that an ad with
high RUSP characteristics led to higher levels of ad recognition, message compre-
hension, persuasion, attitude-toward-ad and attitude-toward-brand, compared to
the ad with low RUSP characteristics. These effects were consistent for both the
utilitarian product with functional benets and the hedonic product with self-
expression benets.
Theoretical contributions
Conceptually, this research rst revisited the USP concept by extending Reevess
(1961) intuitive denition to an empirically veriable ve-dimension construct
with an updated operational denition that reects recent advertising theory and
practice advancement. This introduction of the RUSP scale should help advertising
researchers develop a more in-depth understanding of what is (and what is not) a
RUSP. An effective RUSP, in terms of our conceptualization and delineated
domains, should provide a benet claim that intends to inform, persuade and
mobilize a customer to action. For example, favorabilityreects advertising
appeals that prompt consumers to positively regard the ad and enhances the ad
encoding. Believabilitysuggests the ads sincerity and honesty, thereby providing
JOURNAL OF PROMOTION MANAGEMENT 891
potential consumers assurance and condence. Distinctivenessindicates the
originality and uniqueness of the benets that distinguish the product from com-
petitors. Compatibilityreects a connection between brand benets and con-
sumer experience, feelings and expectations to generate resonance and emotional
bonds. Finally, attractivenessis the power that makes the claimed benet irresist-
ible to consumers and motivates consumers to act. Such interrelated factors reect
the content domain of the RUSP construct.
Second, this research extends Reevess utilitarian philosophical perspective and
his focus on physically distinctive benets by integrating the recent advancement
of consumer knowledge and advertising theories, which demonstrate the impor-
tant role of consumer emotions in responding to advertised benets. As noted by
Puto and Well (1984), an effective advertisement can be informational, transfor-
mational or both. In some instances, emotional desires dominate utilitarian desires
in guiding product choice, and consumers imbue a product with a subjective
meaning that supplements the concrete attributes it possesses (Hirschman &
Holbrook, 1982). In this regard, our RUSP scale reects both cognitive and
affective components, as demonstrated by the experimental results when both
informational ads and transformational ads were used.
Third, in an applied study using experimental methods, we revealed the
relationship between the RUSP characteristics used in an ad and the advertising
effectiveness measures. These results agree with the ndings of Study 2 and
demonstrate the persuasive power of the RUSP on outcome variables, such as
purchasing intention and referral intention. These results contribute to the extant
USP literature by integrating recent advancement in consumer research and adver-
tising theories to update the USP as a contemporary advertising framework.
Managerial applications
A high or low level of RUSP characteristics in an ad is associated with ad effective-
ness measures. As we found in this study, an ad with high level of RUSP, compared
to that of low level of RUSP, will generate high levels of ad recognition, message
comprehension, persuasion effect, attitude-toward-ad and attitude-toward-brand.
Thus, the RUSP scale provides a reliable and valid measurement instrument that
can be used either to develop a new RUSP for an ad or to evaluate the effectiveness
of an existing RUSP in an ad. For instance, in developing a new ad containing
RUSP, designers can develop benet claim statements surrounding core benets,
including both functional psychological utilities, that consumers seeking from a
product. Such benet claim statement can be expressed explicitly or implicitly, by
words, partial words, a combination of words and pictures, and picture only. In
evaluating or selecting an effective ad based on RUSP criteria, market research can
be conducted by presenting benet claim statements to target consumers in multi-
ple groups. The RUSP scale can be employed to measure consumer responses
based on the composite scores of an ad.
892 Y. NIU AND C. L. WANG
In addition, compared with Reevess original criteria, the multidimensional
nature of this RUSP scale may help to identify the particular strengths and weak-
ness of an advertising campaign by evaluating a particular RUSP. If the composite
RUSP scores of the comparison ads are similar, then scores on each RUSP dimen-
sion can be compared regarding the nature of the product and particular benets
sought by target consumers. While trust or believability of a benet claim is essen-
tial to all ads, other dimensions may play different roles inuencing the persuasive-
ness of the ad. For example, for a utilitarian product, or a product that utilitarian
value is the major benet that consumer are looking for, an ad with benet claim
statement that demonstrates high scores on distinctiveness, compatibility, or
attractiveness would be selected. On the other hand, for a hedonic product or a
product that consumers mainly seek for hedonic or self-expressive value, favorabil-
ity and attractiveness may have high importance in consumer choice of the prod-
uct given the emotional involvement in consumer decision-making. In addition,
when an ad is found to possess a lower RUSP score in a particular dimension than
that of a competitors ad, the designer or copy writer can reposting the ad or
improve the benet claim statement in that dimension to increase overall ad
effectiveness.
Limitations and future research direction
First, our empirical studies were conducted in China. Given its unique economic
development and cultural values, our ndings should be used with caution when
applied in other countries. Previous research suggests that cultural values can affect
how consumers in different nations perceive the effectiveness of advertising (Wang
et al., 2000; Wang & Chan, 2001). Consumers and advertisers in Confucian and/or
high-context cultures may pay more attention to contextual cues in advertising,
such as emotionally caring tones, but attend less to the coded, explicit aspects of a
message (Kim, Han, & Yoon, 2010). Additional studies in other mature market
economies using Western cultural values are warranted to test the external validity
or the international generalizability of the RUSP scale and its dimensional
structure.
Second, while this research has demonstrated the content validity, predictive
validity, convergent validity, and discriminant validity of the RUSP scale, future
studies should further explore the nomological validity of the RUSP construct in
terms of its theoretical relationship with precedent and consequence variables. The
extant literature does not offer a discussion of this relationship. Understanding the
theoretical underpinnings of this relationship will not only ll this void in the liter-
ature but also better explain why and how the RUSP construct can help increase
an ads effectiveness.
Third, the multi-dimensional structure of the RUSP construct suggests that
some dimensions likely are more appropriate for utilitarian appeals with functional
benets, whereas other dimensions are more appropriate for self-expressive
JOURNAL OF PROMOTION MANAGEMENT 893
appeals with symbolic or hedonic benets. As such, future research that examines
the relationship between RUSP dimensions and ad effectiveness in both informa-
tional and transformational ads may generate interesting and insightful results. In
addition, future research should employ the RUSP to measure advertising effec-
tiveness by varying product categories and product involvement levels across dif-
ferent consumer segments with different advertising media (TV, radio, Internet,
billboard, etc.) to establish the external validity of the RUSP scale.
Fourth, this research only presented verbal descriptions (e.g., headings, slogans
and benet statements) to participants in pilot studies, that is, Study 1 and Study
2, and employed actual ads in the applied study. However, verbal (discursive) and
visual (presentational) elements might cooperate to convey a vivid impression of
the brands key benet (Holbrook, 1983) and surround the claim with the feeling
(Reeves, 1961, p. 83). Examining the effect of both verbal and nonverbal (celebrity,
color, picture, music, sound, etc.) presentation of RUSP on consumer perceptual
and attitudinal responses will provide merit to future research.
Acknowledgments
Both authors contributed equally to this paper. We are thankful to Professor Bradley Barnes
(University of Shefeld), who provided editing work in our rst draft.
Funding
The National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 71172196 and 71572120) and the Funda-
mental Research Funds for the Central Universities of China (No. skqy201507) supported this
research project.
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... Lewison and Hawes (2007) further assert that the future of educational marketing lies in a highly analytical and interactive approach through a variety of channels. Niu and Wang (2016) explain that when advertisers pitch certain benefits of a product to consumers it is termed as uniques selling proposition (USP) of the product. ...
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