The Four Mother Value Props (and a new Fifth)

Written by Josh-Jones-Dilworth, CEO

In marketing we like to say that everything traces back to 4 mother value propositions, sort of like how in French cooking there are 5 mother sauces — Bechamel, Tomate, Hollandaise, Espagnole, and Veloute.

The 4 mother value propositions are:

  • Save Me Time
  • Make Me Money
  • Let’s Have Fun
  • Give Me Status

For every company or product on earth, you can trace your primary value back to one of these roots. But the thing is, we often get it wrong.

My favorite example is Decoy wine. The noun phrase on the back of every bottle is “everyday wine for the well-informed.” You’d think a wine company was in the “let’s have fun” business but Decoy is actually in the status business, and they’re smart enough to know it and use it.

Are you nervous about buying wine? Are you afraid of looking a fool when you show up to a dinner party with the wrong choice? Don’t worry. And congrats!

As a result of buying this bottle you have in fact joined the ranks of the well-informed. This is the best $25 bottle out there. In fact, this is what your snobby wine friends drink on the daily, and serve to their family on Thanksgiving.

So, what business are you really in?

2020 and 2021 have not been easy, to say the least. We think we actually need to add a new mother value proposition to the list: Give Me Hope.

Years ago the Daily Dot, which enjoys 23–25 million unique visitors per month, did a study of its hit articles. The #1 concept that drove traffic wasn’t doomsday or dour — it was hope. “The kids are gonna be alright” was what we called that particular species of writing at the time.

A 2018 study done by Cone and Porter Novelli about purpose-driven brands also laid some important groundwork.

  • 78% of Americans believe companies must do more than just make money; they must positively impact society as well
  • 77% feel a stronger emotional connection to purpose-driven companies over traditional companies
  • 66% would switch from a product they typically buy, to a new product from a purpose-driven company
  • 68% are more willing to share content with their social networks over that of traditional companies

That study aligned with the ”brands taking stands” trend that Larry Fink brought to the forefront with his 2019 letter to Blackrock shareholders. Organizations of all kinds are in the process of reapproaching and renegotiating their contract with society, and that’s a good thing for everyone involved.

But 2020 and 2021 have taken us one step further.

A key value prop for many brands moving forward is not just alignment of purpose with values (remember: brands are really just values with a voice), but the resulting sensation of optimism about the future.

What makes Give Me Hope different from mere purpose is the difference between intention and achievement. Hope comes from lived experience. Hope isn’t just optimism. As a marketing proposition, hope is uniquely participatory.

Hope actually comes from witnessing, with your own eyes, and hearing, with your own ears, something actually, really, truly getting better, not worse — even if just a little bit. Hope is an opening, and more importantly, an invitation.

Hope can’t be simply given or conveyed upon someone. It has to actually be received, and reciprocated.

Hope is in fact (to be cheesy) a form of viral marketing. It’s contagious. It anticipates, and requires, sharing and being a part of it. Hope, to be truly harnessed, has to carry an implicit call to action: join us.

And in a VUCA world, it is possible hope is the most valuable commodity of all. Give Me Hope might even be a superseding value proposition above all else, though time will tell.


We believe that progress is measured not by the number of new technologies created, but by their ability to be understood, embraced, and leveraged for positive impact. We seek to bring you easy-to-understand briefs on science and technology that can change the world, interviews with the leaders at the forefront of these breakthroughs, and writing that illuminates the importance of communication within and beyond the scientific community. The Superposition is produced by JDI, a boutique consultancy that brings emerging technology and science-driven companies to market. Our mission is to make precedent-setting science companies well known and understood. We pursue mastery of marketing, communications, and design to ensure that our clients get the attention they deserve. We believe that a good story — well told — can change the world.

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