That “Completely Unique” Thing

I couldn’t help but cringe while reading  a blog post about creating an elevator pitch.

The article itself was useful and interesting. The problem came in the “Tips for Creating the Perfect Pitch” section at the end. Tip #1, “Describe your product in one sentence” – we all know that one, even if we haven’t quite gotten it down yet. The cringing came with the explanation of Tip #2, “Give people a point of reference.” I agree with this statement, but not with the explanation in the article, which states:

Even if your product is completely unique, it pays off to give your listener a point of reference.  Mention other products or services that are similar to yours so your listener can refer to something he or she knows about and move on to discover how your product is better.

At issue here is using the term “completely unique,” and then going on to recommend mentioning “similar” products or services as a point of reference.

There is no such thing as “completely unique.”

Merriam-Webster defines “unique” as 1) being the only one, and 2) being without a like or equal. Thus, modifiers such as “completely” or “totally” are inappropriate and cringe-worthy.

For the sake of those who argue that modifiers are in common usage and therefore acceptable, let’s pretend the first sentence is OK.  Now we have to deal with the problem of the second statement, which suggests that we “mention products similar to yours.”

If you truly have a “completely unique” product or service, it has no equal and there is nothing similar anywhere on the planet. And if there were, your “completely unique” statement would go right out the window, leaving you caught in a lie and a ridiculous circle game that is simply not worth you time or energy.

“Give people a point of reference” is a good tip in terms of creating a great elevator pitch. Going after a similar thing to something that is “completely unique”  – well, that’s just bad grammar.