The Emperor’s New Value Proposition

Emperor's new clothes

Most of us remember the story of the Emperor’s new clothes.  For those who need a refresher – the story tells of the Emperor who cared for nothing but his appearance and attire and who hired two tailors who promised him the finest suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or ‘just hopelessly stupid’. The Emperor cannot see the cloth himself, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing unfit for his position; his courtiers do the same. With each successive description of the swindlers’ wonderful cloth, it becomes more substantial, more palpable, and a thing of imaginative beauty for the reader even though it has no material existence. When the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him and the Emperor then marches in procession before his subjects, who play along with the pretence. Suddenly, a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretence, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor cringes, suspecting the assertion is true, but holds himself up proudly and continues the procession.

What’s this got to do with value propositions? Everything, and here’s why.

The reason we called our book ‘Creating and Delivering Your Value Proposition’ wasn’t just because we needed a snappy title  but because we know that you absolutely mustcreate your value proposition first before you can deliver or implement or communicate it. If you don’t create the suit first (aka value proposition) then you’re just dealing with the Emperor’s New Clothes, ie. making marketing stuff up and expecting people to believe you.  Telling people you’ve got a beautiful new suit/value proposition but really there’s nothing there.  Just because you believe something is real, often from your own internal perspective it doesn’t mean anyone else does.

First of all, you’ve got to decide what kind of material you want, what cut of suit, stitching type, etc or, in value proposition terms, what market you want to focus on (link to blog post). Then you really need a tailor – someone who can give you a third-party truthful perspective…”You’re a size 16 not a size 10”.  Someone who can make the suit, make sure it fits and has got the right material and cut and most importantly, making sure it is right for you and makes you look good…making sure everyone believes you look good in it too.  This is akin to our value experience stage where we get real insights into your customers’ experience of you from guess who…your customers.

Value propositions are not something to be made up from no substance.  They must be created from a mix of what you want to achieve combined with your values and the experiences of your customers.  Only when you’ve created your value proposition can you then think about how you need to communicate it to your different and varied audiences.  If you communicate something you haven’t created then it’ll just be seen for what it is, the Emperor’s New Clothes with no grounding substance, no longevity and no long profit tail.

And no-one wants to walk about the town with small children pointing out our nakedness.