Growth Marketing

Vote on a USP (Value Proposition) for “ZapFlash”

Vote on a USP for ZapFlashAt Copy Hackers, we recommend most startups use their unique selling proposition – or value proposition – as their home page headline.

That’s because, when you’re a new business, visitors to your site need to be told what’s unique or different about you that they’d really like.

Why? Because they don’t know you yet.

Because they don’t know how to make sense of you yet.

And because they don’t know how to stack you against who & what they already know.

You have to help them – by clearly stating your USP on the page. For best results, ensure your USP covers these 5 points:

  1. It states what’s unique or different about you
  2. The thing that’s unique or different is DESIRABLE to your prospect
  3. It is specific, not a watered-down summary
  4. It is succinct (again, without losing specifics – yikes, right?!)
  5. It is more likely to be remembered than forgotten

Jaimie W at the soon-to-launch ZapFlash wrote to me with six – count ’em, 6! – ideas for the ZapFlash USP that she’d like to use as her home page headline. Here’s what she said ZapFlash is about:

“ZapFlash is a mass market product that makes smartphone photos beautiful. My target audience is people who upload their photos to Facebook.”

Got it? Cool. Here’s your Copy Hackers mission, should you choose to accept it..:

Help Jaimie Narrow Her USP Options

So She Can Split-Test the Winners

This exercise is a tad rough, but it’s a great way to narrow options. So…

Let’s pretend that, after seeing a great photo with “ZapFlash” on it on Facebook, you’ve gone to the ZapFlash site to learn more. Read the following and tell Jaimie whether she’s hittin’ the bullseye or missin’ the mark for you…


Writing a USP



Writing USPs



Value propositions



Unique sales proposition option



Value prop headlines



Value propositions


How Jaimie’s Target Audience Has Been Responding to the Options

The college kids are digging Option B, which promises “no more washed out photos of your friends in dark bars”.

Older women prefer Option E, which is the only option that messages ease. It’s also a very active, energetic headline – which feels stickier than the options that don’t lead with a verb (e.g., Option D).

Older men prefer Option F, which uses language that, although somewhat vague, speaks to a benefit and sounds a little like sportscaster and sports-drink lingo, if I do say so m’self.

Does that surprise you? Is it as you expected?

Tell me your take on it in the comments…


About the author

Joanna Wiebe

Joanna Wiebe - Copywriter and author of "Copyhackers"

  • Hacio ElCielo

    This is a case where a picture paints a thousand words. Hard to separate copy from images with a product like this. Options B and D hint at that (by painting pictures with words), which is why they rank high for USP and specificity. Actual comparison images should be the focus here, teamed up with the right copy.

  • David Goldstein

    Sorry, not liking any of them. None are compelling to me. Why should I use THIS and not one of a thousand other photography apps – each of which claims they take beautiful pics?

    Who’s the customer? A female business exec who doesn’t have time to play around with settings to get good pics? A college student who’s a geek and has all the time in the world to fine tune it? (If your answer is “everyone!” you need to go back to the drawing board).

    I don’t know enough about the product itself, but from reading in between the lines, it seems to intelligently take good pics. Fine then. So to me that wouldn’t be a geek but someone who just wants to whip our their phone, take a pic and feel reassured it’ll look good… set it and forget it.

    Based on that then…

    What would be more compelling if it rings true “ZapFlash is a professional photographer, in your pocket.” (likely won’t hold up with the fact that a tablet version is available)… but personally for me, that makes me go “Aha! No more mucking around with settings and crap. Just take the damn photo and make it look good!!!”

  • kinshiro

    How about…

    -ZapFlash: We break nikkon cameras into pieces and put them in your mobile
    -ZapFlash: Your photos will be fucking brilliant
    -ZapFlash: Take your first good picture

  • I think the key missing element in these USP options is the “U.” Some of these options give me some idea of what ZapFlash does, & one or two even intrigue me enough that I’d want to learn more – but *none* of them differentiate ZapFlash from the myriad other editing & photo-enhancement apps that are currently available.

  • Nick Marshall

    What a great progression of comments. The only two options that did anything for me were B (washed out photos/dark bars) and D (an attempt at an explanation of what the app does). The claim, though, in both options to take beautiful photos seems over the top. We are not talking digital SLR here. We are talking about convenience and the ability to take less awful photos than usual at a party, a restaurant or a bar. I think the idea of targeting women may be on the right track. But which women – older or younger or both with different USPs? What does it do that is different? Or what particular problem exists for women that is not addressed by Instagram or any other app?
    Completely agree that the name Zapflash says nothing (unless the app actually takes some form of control over the flashgun). Option D mentioned day shadows and light at night. So some name that reflects brightness or boosting or rescuing would be more helpful.
    Love the idea of a gangsta mobile app that goes bang but would probably get your head shot off. But an app that grabbed everyone’s attention and made them smile at the same moment – that would be something.

    • “Beautiful” does seem a bit strong. I think a very narrow segment of people would try to make their smartphone photos look beautiful; as you point out, Nick, looking less awful is the real goal.

      Lance did a post a while back on headlines on accounting software home pages, and one of the BEST headlines said, “All accounting software sucks – we just suck the least”. Memorable!

  • Interesting comments… whoa! I voted for A with the idea that there would be an explanation to follow… so the headline caused me to be interested in reading the next line… which to me is good copy! There’s no possible way to explain differentiate a product in 10-20 words. The point of good copy is to get them to keep reading… and since I NEVER seem to get great photos with my phone/tablet – it worked!

    Joanna… do these contests come from your 1-1 consulting work, or is there another way to access your passionate audience??

    • Jaimie is in my conversion copywriting course, so that’s where this came from. She sent me an email with these value props, and I suggested we put them in front of Copy Hackers readers. Seems to be working. 🙂

  • Wow … I’m a bit stunned.

    These 5 USP points are brutal, which is how you’d define any task of summing up a value proposition in one stinking web page headline.

    But what stuns me isn’t that the college kids dig Option B, which makes perfect sense, but that Option E and Option F resonate with older men and women.

    I’m an older man (ahem), but until I got to Option D — which, admittedly, is a bit wordy — I had no real idea, or interest in, what ZapFlash did. Sure, Option B told me that it somehow didn’t allow people in dark bars to be enveloped in shadows and fail to show up in what I assume is a cell camera snapshot. Which is either cool or a complete bluff, like those X-Ray Specs that used to be advertised in the back of comic books. (I told you I was an older man.)

    Options E and F are what I’d call “content free”: meaningless marketing hype. It’s hard to imagine *anyone* reading their generic message and being intrigued enough to continue. Of course, having said that I have to admit that other elements on the page, like the required 2-minute video demo, might easily overcome this objection. Or at least distract a visitor from the empty claims of the headline.

    But Option D carries enough laser-focused specifics that, even if it invites incredulity, it’s so intriguing I want to know more. (Offhand thought: the detailed superheader might work better as bullets perhaps below the header: * Eliminates daytime shadows * Provides natural light at night * Removes red eye * Makes everyone shine!)

    My views from the cheap seats.

    — Dick Hartzell

    • “These 5 USP points are brutal, which is how you’d define any task of summing up a value proposition in one stinking web page headline.”

      So you don’t think a startup’s value proposition can be messaged (not “summed up”) in a headline? Do explain…

      • You’re making a distinction between “messaged” and “summed up”? I’ve always been under the impression that headlines are all about summing up. Anything longer than a summing up and it’s no longer a headline, is it? It’s a subhead. And then a one-sentence paragraph.

        In any case when you’re talking about tech — and distinguishing one company’s tech breakthrough from all the others’ — messaging the advantage in a headline isn’t easy. As most of the objections posted here attest.

        That was my only point. I had no idea it sounded controversial … or overly simplistic.

      • Lance Jones

        I think your questions and comments are very useful for the other readers of this post, MTR.

        Good headlines don’t summarize. Summaries (of anything) tend to be watered-down details. And that approach to writing headlines is a fabulous way to maintain a sub-optimal conversion rate. 🙂

        Subheads do tend to be longer than headlines, but not always. They should add meaning or support the claim presented in the headline.

        With regard to people’s objections on this post… unfortunately for us writers and CRO consultants, website visitors don’t give us much of a choice. Headlines are typically our first opportunity to engage a visitor and draw them down the page, so that first impression is critical. But a poor headline will make a poor first impression… and SNAP, the visitor bounces.

        Writing effective headlines is difficult as you point out, but it can be done. It takes understanding your visitors and their needs/objections/prior experiences and then crafting a message that connects with their motivation for visiting your site in the first place. It’s tough slogging but so worth it.

  • Option B is the only one that approaches memorable but it’s far too targeted/niche. “Grab your zap flash”, makes this sound like a physical product. Is it? Sounds like they are competing with the likes of everyone’s darling, Instagram, so they really need to stand out here. Best of luck!

    • Agreed, Jennifer, it sounds like that’s exactly whom they’re competing with. But I don’t think that’s actually the case because, as you pointed out, there’s an option that talks about grabbing ZapFlash — like it’s a physical product. If it IS a physical product, then that could bring Jaimie closer to the point of understanding her real difference and whom she should be speaking to.

      It’s likely that only ‘serious amateur’ photogs would buy hardware that hooks onto their smartphone to improve their photos. Jaimie, could that help you adjust your value prop?

      This could lead to a value prop that’s something like, “Plug Your ZapFlash into Your Smartphone or Tablet, and Take Happy-Hour Photos That Don’t Look Like Amateur-Hour”. Possibly too clever and lengthy, but a start??

  • Hey Joanna,

    Thanks for the thought provoking ideas. D is my favorite…but none of these will make me remember this company.

    Reading prior posts you’ve written, I’m convinced that it takes strong sentences/paragraphs to break through the noise.

    I’d remember…With ZapFlash…Even Your Ugly Friends Will Look Great.
    We Make It Easy

    This might turn some people off, but that’s OK. The ones who remember it, might dig a bit further.

    I always learn from your posts.

    Robert Porter
    Vvego International

    • “Even Your Ugly Friends Will Look Great” – ha! The college crowd would eat that up, methinks. 🙂

  • Yeah, I agree with Mark, these are all pretty brutal. Option B is the only one that approaches being memorable, but like you say Joanna, probably only good for the college/hipster crowd, and it certainly doesn’t make me want it, as I don’t spend a lot of time in dark bars anymore 🙂 I think the name should be scrapped too. Names should hint at the function or benefit, or at least make me smile. ZapFlash is confusing to me. I thought maybe it was a speedy USB storage device or something.

    • I think they’re working on a different name because ZapFlash is already taken. I can totally see how you’d think that about their name, James — and I don’t think it helped that, at one point in the post, I wrote “ZapFlash USP”, which might’ve planted “USB” in our fast-moving minds. 🙂

  • Jen

    I like Option B because she’s speaking to a problem. I actually just went out to a restaurant with my friends and had trouble getting good pictures because the lighting was dim. I don’t know of any other photo app that addresses this issue.

    The other options, I will have to agree with the 2 commenters before me – they don’t differentiate it from any other photo app on the market. I’m perfectly satisfied with Instagram’s ability to make my photos look good and am not interested in investing time in another potentially useless photo app – I’ve tried like 8 others on the market and they all sucked. My inclination is to believe this one does too.

    • Lance Jones

      You’re making an excellent final point here, Jen. There is likely already some market inertia — bad inertia — around photo apps (due to the copycatting and poor quality of some apps), and it’s something ZapFlash will have to counter in its messaging.

  • Bart

    If ZapFlash is primarily for use with Facebook than the target is older women – not younger ones and they need to tweak B to fit exactly that. i.e. “No more washed out photos of your kids on Facebook – ZapFlash is the super easy way to turn your phone pics into professional quality photos and post them straight to facebook in seconds.”

    • I like where you’re headed here Bart!

      • Jaimie–I feel for you because I am in exactly the same situation right now trying to come up with a value prop for MY photo book app. Like others, it wasn’t exactly clear to me what the product is–smartphone app, or physical product? I’m guessing it’s an app that adjusts photo contrast/brightness–hopefully automatically, since there are a lot of others that let the user do this manually. However, if your target market is people who upload photos to Facebook, I agree with Bart and think you should consider getting this into the value prop–does it automatically send the photos to FB? This could be a good differentiator–snap and tap–gorgeous photos straight to Facebook, or something like that. As Joanna mentioned, it will also be key to have good visuals on the website and for screenshots to help explain the app.

    • Dig it, Bart! Nice! 🙂

      • Bart

        This is also a perfect situation for a Before & After image right next to the USP headline. I know the focus is on the USP but here is a true situation where the image can do a lot of the heavy lifting if done right. Show the results in a split second rather than describing it in 3 sentences.

    • Yep, I’ll join the crowd in lauding Bart’s approach. Assuming he (and we) understand just what the hell ZapFlash is.

  • Beatrix Willius

    And what does Zapflash actually do? No clue about this from their “USPs”.

    • That’s a great point, Beatrix — and I hope everyone, not just brave Jaimie 🙂 , asks themselves that question about their own headline.

      Of course, on an actual landing page, there would be more elements to help the visitor understand what this tool does. Images, a logo, supporting copy. (And people landing there would likely have an inkling as to point of the site they’re about to visit.) But this “stripped down” exercise definitely forces us to be very, very critical of our messages. Because your value prop should be able to stand alone.

  • Mark @ Make Them Click

    God this is torture. Five meaningless bits of drivel, and not one of them even comes close to being a USP. The problem I have with all of the above is that any one of the competitors could say exactly the same thing. Blah, blah,blah, blah blah.

    None of them are memorable.

    None of them tell me what’s different about zapflash. So I can take photos with my Smartphone, how is this news?. Oh I can take prettier pictures. How nice. etc, etc

    None of them make me want it.

    If I was Jamie I’d scrap the lot and start looking for a good copywriter, ‘cos none of the above are going to do the job.

    Sorry to be cruel, but it’s better to find out know than after the launch.

    • What do you really think, Mark? 😉 You’re right, though: if a USP is supposed to set you apart, then your competitors shouldn’t be able to say the same thing. The challenge for so many businesses is figuring out what’s REALLY different about their offering. We have to get really hard on ourselves to get to that point.

      It doesn’t always have to be the *product* itself that’s different, either. That’s important. Visitors just need to figure out where to slot you in the shelves of info in their minds; the more desirable the difference you offer, the better spot you might get in those shelves. Zapflash could be similar to other photo-beautifying apps as a tool, but the company founders could be from Polaroid, giving them cred and resulting in a USP like, “The First Smartphone Photo App from the Makers of Polaroid, the Originators of Fun Photos”.

      • God — those older women and men may have heard of Polaroid (or, more to the point, thought Polaroid instant pictures were cool), but what about anyone under 30?

        So far in the comments I’m with Guest (above), who thinks ZapFlash should be marketed to young women. But I haven’t read the stuff below, so maybe somebody else has a better take on focusing ZapFlash’s USP.

      • Joanna, provoking question: isn’t the USP supposed to say something appealing for the customer? Why would I care about some Polaroid former employees making an app? I mean, cool story. But what’s in it for myself? I would rather know what’s the product about, why is different from i.e. Instagram (it could be easier to use, faster to take pictures, more gangster to show off when I’m walking down the street and I take a pic and a nice, loud BANG comes out of the speakers turning heads) and why would I want to use it. Yes, you can get your own slot in the shelves of my mind, collecting dust. You wouldn’t be at the top though where the action is and where currently stands the app I’m using to take pictures with. I’m not going to stop using it just because you come from Polaroid (unless of course I’m a Polaroid fan and if that’s your niche, fair enough). Give me a good reason about ME why I should change my habits cause we all tend to be creatures of habit and nobody likes to change for the sake of it.

        If you can’t be the #1 in the “pic-taking apps” shelves cause it’s crowded and though to take over unless you have something revolutionary I would suggest build a new shelf, call it “pic-taking apps for women that like to look good in their shots” and dominate it (it shouldn’t be hard, if you are the first it’s basically just you). I say don’t compete with CocaCola. Become a Redbull 🙂 I think this would give Jaime her best shot, even if she has to turn her ready-to-launch app upside down. She can always iterate, anyway and come up with something else once she has some empirical data that the path she’s on is leading nowhere amusing. Ciao!

      • Well, there are loads of ways to differentiate yourself — and your founder’s story is, actually, one of them. If it’s a good story. And if it helps the visitor have a reason to consider you. Saying you’re the peeps that made Polaroid — which has a retro appeal today — could resonate with people who are looking for a level of credibility. That message might not work for you… but it could work for others. So test it… because we don’t know what our visitors will most desire or what will pique their interest.

        It doesn’t have to be Polaroid, of course. Imagine if it said the makers of Instagram. Then it might mean something to you, right?

      • Mark @ Make Them Click

        Yeh, USPs aren’t easy, if they were everyone would have a good one. You can’t come up with one in an afternoon, usually they evolve over time. The way I’d approach it is to do what Danielle says (and Ogilvy himself always recommended) : Do the research. Read everything you can about smart phone cameras and photography, hang out with the people who use smartphone cameras, talk to them, find out what they like and what they dislike, use the product etc,

        As others have said, I also think the target market is too vague and big. In fact I don’t think it is a clearly defined target market. “People who upload photos to Facebook” is just about everyone these days.

        And that makes me wonder if they have really done their marketing homework. It may be too earlyfor them to be thinking about USP’s.

      • I would hope that you wouldn’t start building a product until you’ve sorted out a strong version of your USP. If you don’t know what you’re going to do differently/better, how will you build the product to be different/better?

      • Mark @ Make Them Click


    • Guest

      Mark is spot on.

      I would start asking them: what’s the problem Zapflash is solving so well that would leave his competitors eating the dust?
      Promising “better pictures” isn’t gonna cut it, sorry. Too generic and hard to measure in terms of benefits. I mean, how prettier are they going to be? Jaime, you have to be more specific.

      Imo you are on the right track in the USPs where you list all pic glitches people stumble upon when using tablets/smartphones (red eyes etc).

      Those are problem. Are they painful enough? If you haven’t yet, you should ask people that are uploading their pics on FB if they are satisfied with their shots (and maybe find out they are, they don’t need another app and you are basically waisting your time) and what bothers them the most. Rank those bothers and use the most felt to describe what your app does.

      For example: “Snapshot: no more red eyes “. It’s clear what it does and people can appreciate instantly how snapshot can improve their experience. For the same reason “No more washed out photos of your friends in dark bars” is the best of the batch imo (granted that people actually care about their photos not being washed out and I’m not sure they do – have you seen what’s being uploaded these days?)

      What baffles me though is that going technical with “amateur photographers” (i.e. random young people snapping around) may not be the best way to hook them. “Getting rid of shadows in the day, providing natural light at night, deleting red eye”… I’m not sure it’s killer with the audience you are trying to win over.

      Jaime, this is what I suggest you to do. Narrow your market down. Target just women (better, young-ish women going out that like to party, post on FB, show off their outfits in the FB cover). They are generally more self-conscious about how they look and looking shitty in their posted pictures can be a big deal for a lot of them. Make it all about girls. You are a girl, you should know what buttons to press. I think it would be easier for you to stand out: you could be first app for women who want to look good in their pics (hopefully nobody is doing it already,

      • Sorry there are few typos here and there, english is not my native language and I didn’t spell check it before posting it. Anyway, Jaime if you want to discuss this further send me a message on FB. I just like this shit 🙂

      • Lance Jones

        Best comment of the day. 🙂

      • Lance, I’m still waiting for the CRO course you were supposed to launch last year! (I once emailed Joanna asking how to become a rockstar CRO specialist and she pointed at you as the real rockstar).

        So… can I be your apprentice?

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      Gotta agree with Mark. And if you don’t believe him, I think it would help to get some crowdsourced feedback. Just did a test-run of a service called Zipinion ( in which you could get a good idea from 100 anonymous users in about 10 minutes. Come to think of it, their style of A/B testing would probably work well to lean out most of our — as Mark puts it — “drivel”…

      • Mark @ Make Them Click

        Zipinion looks interesting, I’ll have to bookmark that one for future use. (Although their choice of names for their services “Crawler, Baller and Banger” suggest they’ve been watching too many exploitation movies.)

        In any event, you could also do a similar thing running a split test of USP’s with Adwords. That way you’d get real action as opposed to opinions.

        I’d probably use both to get qualitative and quantitative data.

      • loscuatrotulipanes

        Precisely Mark. The one thing Adwords doesn’t offer is user feedback. In my few tests with Zip, the feedback was surprisingly thoughtful (addressing the one other question: just who exactly is answering these polls).

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