Making good on a value proposition

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The first car with a three-point belt was a Volvo PV 544 in 1959.

The best way to stand out in a crowded market is to find something unique about your brand that sets you apart from the competition.

This is known as a customer value proposition, and the very best can be instantly understood, sometimes in just one word.

And perhaps no brand has achieved this more effectively than Volvo.

Founded in 1926, Volvo became a byword for safety by relentlessly focusing their research – and marketing – on this issue for decades.

And it worked because Volvo really has pioneered hugely important safety features, including rear-facing child seats (1972), child booster seats (1978), side impact protection (1991), SIPS airbags (1994), blind spot detection (2004), and pedestrian airbags (2012).

Their invention of the three-point seat belt in 1959 – still used in almost all cars today – has saved millions of lives, something Volvo encouraged by not patenting the technology, so other manufacturers could adopt it too.

Earlier this year, Malin Ekholm, Vice President of Volvo Cars Safety Centre, said: “Our vision is that by 2020 no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car.”

This vision could well be achievable. In the sixteen years their popular XC90 model has been on sale in the UK there have been no recorded driver or passenger deaths.

A customer value proposition only works if the brand is consistent in its message, and follows through in its actions, as Volvo has done.

John Lewis is another brand with a long-standing value proposition that has served it very well over the years.

Their iconic “never knowingly undersold” slogan has helped cement their reputation for being firmly on the side of their customers.

But in recent years this message has become confused, as their price promise applies only to their high street competitors, and not to online only retailers like Amazon, a distinction lost on younger customers.

A focus on price matching (with lots of small print attached) also risks detracting from what is arguably a far more important differentiator for John Lewis – their commitment to offering a great service and a carefully curated selection of quality products.

John Lewis, Victoria Gate, Leeds, designed by ACME

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