Laura Petrolino

A Unique Value Proposition and The Island of Misfit Toys

By: Laura Petrolino | December 9, 2014 | 

The Island of Misfit Toys: Embracing Your Unique Value Proposition

By Laura Petrolino

How’d you like to be a spotted elephant?

Or a choo-choo with square wheels on your caboose!

Or a water pistol that shoots… jelly?

We Are All Misfits!

Growing up, I always had a weird fascination with the Island of Misfit Toys. In fact, I’m pretty sure I asked my parents if I could go there multiple times.

Being a “misfit” just seemed so much better than being ordinary.

I mean, come on—why would you want to be an ordinary elephant if you could be a SPOTTED elephant? (Unless of course you had chicken pox, or a rash, or something…that would be bad. We are just talking about “fashion spots” here.)

Anyone who knows me at all knows I’m all about embracing my uniqueness—my “special snowflake” pattern.

The misfit toys serve as an important reminder to do just that. They teach us it is not necessary to be like everyone else to provide value.

In fact, it is often in leveraging your difference where you really provide value.

A True Unique Value Proposition

In marketing, we throw around the term “Unique Value Proposition” often. Yet many times, despite our big talk about what makes us unique, a certain sense of fear prevents us from really defining ourselves clearly from our competitors.

We want to be unique and have a clear differentiation, but only in the ways it will affect our business positively.

Unfortunately, truly being unique requires you to accept the good with the bad.

For every customer that says, “Yes, this is exactly what we are looking for,” or, “This is what we’ve been missing,” there might be five others that say, “Whoa…I’m not so sure.”

Not necessarily because they don’t like what you do, or even because they don’t understand it.

Instead, it might be because just as it takes a certain fearlessness to embrace what makes you different, it takes that same courage from the consumer side.

To stand out from the crowd and invest in something that’s not the status quo, doesn’t fit the mold, or is simply unexpected—that takes a little bit of faith, a longer term vision, and a lot of trust.

Don’t Hide Your Spots

Our spotted elephant could very well simply try to hide his spots. He could try to fit in, so his difference didn’t distract people from his value, or maybe even only show them at certain times.

While this might serve his purpose, he is selling both himself and the people he could help short.

To really make your uniqueness work for you, you must embrace it, fully—all of the time.

Now, this doesn’t mean ignoring push back and apprehension from your consumer. It doesn’t mean just forging boldly (and blindly) ahead.

Instead, it means learning from that push back—finding a way to meet your audience where they are and escort them the rest of the way.

After all, even the most expert climbers need a guide to navigate Everest. Neither of you will reach the summit if you don’t ascend together.

How to Climb Mount Misfit

How then do you help your customer safely climb Misfit Mountain with you?

Just as Rudolph convinced Santa to let the misfit toys have their chance to shine, you win small victories.

Call it burden of proof, or ’tis the season so call it “guiding the sleigh” (i.e. “Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight,” SING IT WITH ME NOW), you lay the foundation of trust step by step, one small risk at a time.

That’s how a guide works, and you must be a guide for your consumer.

Going back to our Mount Everest analogy: Imagine if the guides just met everyone at the bottom, gave them a map and said “Ok, let’s go, meet you at the top.”

Not only would most people turn and run away, but the journey wouldn’t be all that successful.

Instead, they have the long-term vision and plan of where they are going to go, but they take it one trek at a time.

One small summit, one milestone each day until they reach the next. One small risk to accomplish and build confidence before the next push.

In this way success is a progression, not a destination.

Take the Rudolph Challenge

As we move into 2015, take the Rudolph challenge. Ask yourself not just what makes you different, but how you can bring your customer along with that difference.

How can you “guide the sleigh” so they aren’t just intrigued by what makes you different, they embrace it as a necessary part of their success?

About Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

  • marksherrick

    ginidietrich lkpetrolino the trick is, finding the place your UVP fits in, and I stand at the top of the pile of folks trying to find…

  • lkpetrolino

    marksherrick ginidietrich Ha! Yep, it’s a process and one that requires on-going analysis

  • marksherrick

    lkpetrolino ginidietrich Or a lot of hiding, at least if you deal with current HR people, which is no fun.

  • I feel like my worlds are converging because I was just proofing a post on Lead Change about appreciating differences. Therefore this topic is fresh in my mind. We all give lip service to “appreciating differences” because it sounds like the thing to do but in reality it takes discipline and maturity to allow differences to be a plus instead of a minus. Great post (and I wish the vid had been YOU singing Rudolph, in tree pose or something…. 🙂 ).

  • biggreenpen Exactly! Discipline, maturity, and a whole bunch of courage. 

    And maybe I’ll sing Rudolph for you at some point during this Christmas Season

  • Take the Rudolph challenge! I wonder if the challenge includes, perhaps, actually watching the movie (it’s a movie, right?) that you’re referencing above …

  • I’M A MISFIT!!!!! And I love it. Great post Laura, nice work tying in Rudolph, misfits and marketing!

  • EmilyNKantner

    Love this and the movie–I just dressed up as Yukon Cornelius for a cookie exchange last week. Taking the Rudolph challenge!

  • EmilyNKantner um…you can’t just come by and drop a comment like “I just dressed up as Yukon Cornelius” and not leave a picture!!! Come on Emily, you should know the rules by now!

  • belllindsay You are a misfit my friend! #TeamMisfit!

  • Eleanor Pierce Wait, have you not seen the movie?

  • EmilyNKantner

    @LauraPetrolino Most of them wore cute elf costumes–I was a man with a beard

  • LauraPetrolino Eleanor Pierce Nope. (ducks)

  • Eleanor Pierce LauraPetrolino this Rudolph deficit must be rectified …

  • LauraPetrolino biggreenpen I definitely glossed right over the “maybe” in that comment. I wanna hear Rudolph from you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • biggreenpen Eleanor Pierce LauraPetrolino I’m disgusted! Yes, this must be rectified immediately. Your child can not come into the world to such a uncultured mother. How did you get through childhood.

  • EmilyNKantner YES!!!! This is so fantastic! I’m inspired!

  • lkpetrolino

    marksherrick ginidietrich Haha! I’m sure! And hiding is definitely a “strategy”…..

  • lkpetrolino

    GPSConsultingCo don’t you love this image! Totally brings back childhood memories!

  • I love this post @lkpetrolino . I always make fun of the lemmings who have blinders on and run off the cliff together. Great example is going back to 2010 I told brands not to pay FB to grow Fans. But they all did. Then Facebook screwed them by then demanding more money to reach those fans. Books were written. Keynotes given. Companies like Likeable, Vitrue and I forget the big Page App company Google bought. Only to find people really don’t want to talk to brands very much on social. Clients got fleeced. Fortunes were made by the fleecers. All because people and businesses are lemmings.
    The real important thing though is figuring out your uniqueness. Recently McDonalds shook up their marketing/advertising team thinking their sales were dropping because of that. But their uniqueness is only two things. French fries are great and they are very consistent in terms of what you get and how they operate. In fact operations and supply chain management are really their core competencies. Not making burgers or nuggets. I can find much better elsewhere. So they are stuck with a bad business model and they have no idea why! I worked for a parts distributor in California. A very big one. I thought what we brought was out 20+ brands we sold. I was wrong. The uniqueness was how well we manage inventory and give technical support. Go figure.

  • Howie Goldfarb Those are really great examples Howie! It’s always interesting to me when brands *think* something is what makes them unique and really defines them, when that’s really not what it is at all. It’s very hard to take a step back and really evaluate what it is, not what you want it to be, or in theory sounds good, but what it really is.

  • lkpetrolino

    MediaLabRat Thanks Robert! Gotta love the misfits!

  • bieberzbadass


  • MediaLabRat

    lkpetrolino Indeed! Did you watch #Rudolph last night? The Twitter stream was hysterical!

  • lkpetrolino

    MediaLabRat No! Ah, bummer! I’m going to have to go back and check it out. It’s just not Christmas without a viewing of Rudolf and Frosty!

  • MediaLabRat

    lkpetrolino I think the Tweet keyword and sentiment cloud says it all 🙂 #Rudolph

  • lkpetrolino

    MediaLabRat Oh, that’s super interesting. And I love the random “hipster,” because everything, even Rudolph needs a hipster representation!

  • MediaLabRat

    lkpetrolino This was the Tweet that drove the hipster convo 🙂

  • lkpetrolino

    MediaLabRat LOL! That’s so frighteningly accurate!!! HAHAHA!

  • GPSConsultingCo

    lkpetrolino Yup, great memories! Love the concept that having people with different strengths is good for your organization–go misfits!

  • PieroSettepani

    markwschaefer ginidie Thanks for following me if you want to know the answer for any question read my book Evolution