When Is a Cookie Not Just a Cookie?

Elizabeth Mansfield

I just had a marketing brainstorming session with a small, independently owned patient care facility. They had a story I hear a lot. We will call them Group A. They provide excellent patient care and customer service. They provide a full range of O&P services. They have been around for close to 10 years. They used to be one of three facilities in the area but now they are one of seven and some of those seven are national and/or multi-state chains.

This is where the story got a little different. They actually have a USP.

What is a USP?

A USP is a unique selling proposition. The term was developed by television advertising pioneer Rosser Reeves of Ted Bates & Company. Theodore Levitt, a professor at Harvard Business School, suggested that, “Differentiation is one of the most important strategic and tactical activities in which companies must constantly engage.”

The term has been used to describe one’s personal brand in the marketplace. Now, this company has a USP, which is great, but what is the bane of their existence? The competitors’ marketing plans. What do their competitors use to market?



Their competitors bribe, for lack of a better word, the nurses and case managers on the orthopedic floors with cookies. In exchange for the cookies, the competitors are placed on the call list.

Group A doesn’t believe that plying staff with cookies is a viable long-term marketing strategy. I agree. There will always be someone who will want to one up you with a better, more expensive food treat.

It can get expensive, if not downright embarrassing, if your entire marketing plan is based on cookies.

Cookie lesson

But there is a lesson to be learned from the humble cookie. When you are crafting your marketing message you must be sure it speaks to the wants and needs of your audience, or the people you are trying to reach. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love it when people bring me cookies or cake or donuts. Many people associate food with love and care. It’s called “comfort food” for a reason.

So, a cookie may not be just a cookie. A cookie is a message that says “I like you. I care about you and I want you to be happy.”

The challenge? For our Group A, the challenge is to take their unique selling proposition and turn it into a non-edible cookie for the people they want their message to reach. That message should also say “I like you. I care about you and I want you to be happy.” Their USP has much more value for their target market than a cookie ever could, but they will have to craft their message carefully to give it that “comfort food” appeal.

Elizabeth Mansfield is the president of Outsource Marketing Solutions. She can be reached at elizabeth@askelizabeth.net.

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