The Semantic Soup that is Marketing: Value Proposition

There are 6 consumption values. (Five of these identified originally by Sheth, Newman & Gross and a sixth added by the author.) These consumption values are universal and apply across all consumption decisions. Although they have been described long after ‘propositions’ and USP have been used in marketing, it clarifies our understanding of a ‘value proposition’.


In essence these six consumption values are described as the underlying reasons why people choose to consume a particular product or service. The underlying reasons are defined as a ‘consumption value.’ These six consumption values are:




  • Functional value

  • Social value

  • Emotional value

  • Epistemic value

  • Conditional value

  • Significative (or Symbolic) value


For instance a car is purchased because it enables you drive from A to B, but there may also be other values associated with the purchase such being able to spend time with my friends, improving my image etc.


In fact, shopping centre managers often distinguish between the functional and the social shopping trip because patrons’ behaviours are so different. A single consumption decision may then have one or more consumption values, but often one of those consumption values (underlying reasons) dominate a particular purchase.


A sensible way of considering a value proposition is simply choosing one of these six dimensions to be (promoted as) the salient benefit; i.e. the ‘value proposition’ is the consumption value with the most salience.


To continue the motor car analogy, those single word descriptors (safety or status or driving pleasure) refer one of the consumption values above, and those descriptors would therefore qualify as a ‘value proposition’.


A value proposition may be the same as a unique selling proposition (USP) if the value proposition is made explicit, but often the value proposition remains implicit.


For instance:




  • Volvo = Safety

  • BMW = Driving excellence


But at any given point time, a marketer may be create a different USP by promoting a different idea to stimulate sales. It may be ‘extra value’ or a ‘preferred interest rates or even a ‘never to be repeated price’. USPs are short-term, tactical marketing messages designed to communicate something ‘fresh’. The value proposition is more closely associated with a brand promise than a sales message. More about that later.


Some people may even argue that a USP should really be a UBP (Unique Buying Proposition) because a selling proposition is not very marketing-orientated.