If you continued past the title of this post, then you’re intrigued or
pissed offended. I don’t even know you, but I can say with assurance that value propositions suck. The problem lies in those two words. Proposition sounds too much like proposal, only one of the scariest commitments imaginable. And then it reduces that to the word value, what you get from that commitment. Brands, especially startups, have the job of communicating value. It’s just rarely that simple or enough.
If you’ve read online, been a part of a cohort, or just done your homework, you know what a value proposition is. You might have seen it represented this way.
The value proposition visualizes the relationship between a typical brand and their target audience. It’s useful to some degree in that it helps a company focus what they can do for a potential customer. However, it reduces the relationship to only that aspect.
Your relationship with your target is really more of a process. Your brand takes a possible consumer through an experience. If it ends at the value proposal, then it looks like this. The arrow in the middle shows the value proposition. It’s the gap between what a person looks like before and after experiencing your brand.
The Merit Delivery
There is something that beats a value proposition every time. It’s a story that changes a person’s life. Stories do that. It offers merit, instead of just value. Value describes the relative worth of something. It could be an object or an experience. Merit implies something that deserves or justifies a reward. The merit delivery is always better than a value proposition. It points to something bigger than the value. It’s an ongoing experience that seems huge comparatively. It looks more like this.
Here is the big delivery for the brand. Consolacon is a company that specializes in high-end, custom kitchen cabinetry. They make cabinets using only the best wood, the best finishes and the best assembly of those materials into the best kitchen cabinets. Their value proposition is a higher quality kitchen cabinet. If that’s where the brand ended, then there’s little excitement involved.
A Better Story
The merit delivery is huge compared to just a value proposition. For Consolacon, it goes beyond just cabinets. It offers a kitchen designed to give you the best cooking experience possible. It also ups the game on anyone who entertains, since, as we all know, most of the time hosting those parties, people gather in the kitchen. A different kind of life comes with a kitchen built by Consolacon. Look at it like this.
The problem with a value proposition is it ends too soon. If Consolacon offered a value proposition, it would show better wood and paint. But the merit delivery would show people gathered around plates of food, smiling and laughing because of the experience of cooking.
The average consumer has no idea what makes a kitchen cabinet. They don’t know the value of cabinet grade wood. Their understanding of the challenges of keeping cabinets level and plumb in a house that moves and breathes is minimal. They likely don’t know the first thing about paint finishes and hardeners added so that the finish is strong enough to be wiped down for years, but isn’t too brittle and flakes off.
What the average client for Consolacon knows is their life. They want to be able to have a functioning kitchen that helps them make good food and probably looks nice for the parties they give. It’s the merit of that deliverable that makes the difference, not the quality of wood, right?!
In the end, great brands focus on the merit delivery. Think about Apple for a minute. Their commercials feature people doing awesome things – skydiving, kendo, ballet – and then their products allowing people to experience them in deeper ways by recording video, or making music, or connecting with someone through Facetime. That’s a merit delivery. Other computer companies focus on the value proposition. Here’s our computer. It has a good processor and a sturdy case. Here are the specs.
Which would you rather buy?
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