I've been in a number of discussions on the nature of value propositions lately. In the agency this debate has been principally fuelled by our current obsession with all things lean and subsequently the ideas of lean godfather Steve Blank.
In a recent article Blank has pointed to the idea that there are in fact only two fundamental value propositions (ie the 'why') available to any brand, company, product or service.
1. It solves a problem. It is functional.
Things like electricity, toothbrushes, washing powder or paracetamol tablets would often fall into this bucket.
2. It fulfils a human social need.
Human social needs being things like entertainment, connection, friendship and so forth.
Blank argues, and we agree, that the functional value proposition is clearly the lesser of the two in terms of creative potential.
Having a purely problem solving value proposition is also risky, for instance, though not exclusively, for the fact that if Brand Y comes along and can fix the same problem cheaper or faster then Brand X is vulnerable.
Then competing on price is a race to the bottom, particularly if Brand X is also competing on scale.
Whereas there is a huge market for companies that can fulfil social human needs. Facebook, Zynga, Google, Nike, Virgin, Vogue or Manchester United etc etc are testament to this.
As a lens this is useful for quickly evaluating the nature of advertising campaigns.
Which brings me to this current campaign for erstwhile iconic Aussie workwear brand Hard Yakka.
I've noticed this poster over the road on my drive to work over the past couple of weeks and it's irked me but I've not been able to pin down exactly why, but here goes...
The line 'Jeans you won't wear out' seems to me to be so mundane and functional in it's 'value proposition' that I've been scratching my head to see if there's some irony or something that I am just simply not 'getting'.
The double whammy is the kinda subtext which is that - not only but also - you will not wear these denims 'out', in non building site situations such as social occasions, either.
So not only is the value proposition purely functional and commodity but it also goes one step further and negates any potential social fulfillment, or even simply further utility, by imlpicity stating 'problems' that the product will not solve.
I'm all about pragmatism but this strikes me as dull in the extreme.
Of course, the alternative extreme is 'liquid linkage to big fat fertile spaces' but for a 'genuine' brand like Hard Yakka one has to mark this card as disappointing, unimaginative and generally must work harder.
Hard Yakka is a former client at my previous agency, so think of this as tough love.