Book Summary: Different

Probably one of the hardest business cliches is that you must be unique and stand out from the pack. You can transform a cliche into profits if you understand how the world's top companies can turn a point of distinction into a competitive edge.

Youngme Moon has highlighted the issues with "herd mentality" and recommends three different methods to apply this thinking to your company.

Herd Thinking – Why We Are All the Same

A standing man is having a question.

As humans, we enjoy making boxes to fit things within. In business, this is typically represented as a two-by-two matrix. An industry leader identifies itself by one or two traits in nearly every business area, and the rest of the market follows suit.

Take the SUV segment, for example. Jeep was recognized for the toughness of its cars twenty years ago.

Except for Jeep, there were few alternatives for you if that's what you desired. You were significantly more inclined to select a Nissan or a Toyota if you sought dependability.

What has transpired in the last two decades?

Dependability and ruggedness were the category's defining features, and all of the vehicles eventually appeared the same - an equal combination of robust and reliable.

Then other factors, like fuel efficiency and safety, began to factor into the equation.

The end product is the same, despite the differences in quality.

This occurs in nearly every category on the globe. It's the incredible rush to homogeneity. Of course, we have the same reaction to anything in life that is different.

Marcus Buckingham published an entire book about how we are prone to focusing on flaws in HR reviews, pushing employees to spend the most of their time and energy on the areas where they bring the least value.

It's simple to understand why we do this. It might be unsettling to look at someone else who appears to be succeeding with a characteristic or feature that we, or our organization, lack.

It's difficult to see your competitors outselling you based on sex appeal if you're Volvo.

However, as Moon points out, this is not the way to go. Focusing on what makes you unique is the key to success.

The Path to Sameness

A man trying to find a way using map.

Here's the 7-point route to the sameness that nearly every industry follows.

  1. A business first adds a new feature to its product or service.
  2. Second, customers are happy with the addition, which sends a message to the market.
  3. Third, rivals try to catch up to the new feature.
  4. Fourth, the new functionality becomes an industry-wide norm.
  5. Fifth, customers have learned to anticipate that degree of functionality across the board.
  6. Sixth, the anticipated value proposition has grown, and the minimum criteria to participate in the sector have increased.
  7. Seventh, return to #1.

This cycle usually attracts new competitors to the category, all of whom follow the same 7-step procedure, making brand loyalty in the sector more difficult to achieve. There are now many alternatives that appear to be the same, which is the perfect prescription for a commodities market.

This is not the place for you. This is how most categories develop until someone comes along to break the trend. Please take a look at the three methods they use.


Give back things.

The first approach to stand out is to employ the "reversal" idea. The internet portal world looked a lot like a dog's breakfast back when you hadn't heard of Google.

If you were competing with Yahoo!, the 800-pound gorilla at the time, you'd probably attempt to cram more things onto your site rather than less.

That is, after all, how things were done in the past.

Not at Google, at least.

They changed the search engine experience for billions of people worldwide by putting nothing but a search box on the main page. That was something new.

Take, for example, the instance of Jet Blue. Customers had become accustomed to big airlines striving to "one-up" one other to gain cues in the 1990s.

In-flight meals, several flying options (first class, business class, etc. ), and other perks and privileges were available.

Jet Blue arrived and obliterated them all. There is no longer any such thing as a first-class; you pay for a seat and receive a seat, just like everyone else. There will be no more free lunches; if you want to eat, you must pay.

It seemed counterintuitive that removing these characteristics would make an airline more profitable, yet it turned out to be the case.

To become a "reverse-positioned brand," you must refuse to include characteristics that the rest of the industry thinks are vital to compete. That is, however, simply one side of the coin.

These businesses also pamper us with characteristics that others lack and that we aren't aware of.

Take IKEA, for example. It's a pain to get to the stores, and you'll have a hard time finding a parking place nearby. You must assemble the furniture yourself. You roam through a large warehouse disguised as a store, looking for what you require.

The whole thing smells like deprivation.

But then you get items from a furniture firm that you didn't expect. You may leave your children in a clean and well-lit care center while you shop. If you become hungry along the road, a cafe sells smoked salmon and Swedish meatballs. The "warehouse" itself is well-lit and pleasant to stroll in.

These are features that most furniture companies would not include, yet millions of consumers adore them.


A man having a business trip.

The second approach to stand out is to establish a "breakaway" brand.

We are extremely excellent at classifying our experiences to make sense of them as human beings. In reality, such categorizations shape the way we view the world for the most part.

Breakaway companies make use of this reality better than anyone else by pushing you to swap one mental model with another. "These are firms that say, 'I know you're thinking of this as a slice of Swiss cheese, but what if you thought of it as a floating carpet instead?'" Moon adds.

By inventing the "Pull-Up," Kimberley-Clark, for example, established a completely new market. It's a hybrid of underpants and diapers.

Of fact, it's just a new technique of putting on a diaper.

However, they eliminate the shame associated with wearing diapers past the age of two, and parents are now frequently keeping their children in these "Pull-Ups" past the age of four.

When you first saw Homer Simpson, you were watching this strategy in action. The Simpsons is everything a children's cartoon should not be. And yet, there it is, a combination of a cartoon and an adult sitcom.

Swatch, the Swiss watchmaker, is probably the most well-known example in this category. The precision workmanship of pricey materials supplied in high-end jewelry shops is the mental paradigm that dominates this area.

Swatch appeared to ask: I know you're tempted to think of this as an expensive piece of jewelry, but what if you thought of it as an everyday fashion item instead?

They were the first firm to offer a range of things that varied on a seasonal basis, and they designed pop-art designs for their timepieces.

They were also the first watchmakers to open separate storefronts to market their products. In the fashion business, these things were routine, but in the watch industry, they were unheard of.

To top it off, they were priced at a point where their consumers could afford to buy numerous watches and use them as fashion accessories.

The greatest advantage of a breakaway brand is that we quickly "get it" when we see it for the first time. Even though it is unlike anything we've ever seen, there's no need to re-educate the market. That is a lovely thing.


A girl promoting something/

The third and last approach to stand out is to take advantage of antagonism.

"Instead of laying down the welcome mat, they lay down a gauntlet," Moon describes what a hostile brand is. It doesn't get much more unique than this.

It contradicts everything you've ever learned about business, and every fiber of your being tells you that this is completely incorrect. It's anti-marketing, not marketing.

The Mini is a great illustration of this. It multiplied the size of its largest potential wart.

Its entire advertising campaign appears to suggest, "It's even smaller than you thought."

Mini mounted one of its vehicles on top of an SUV and drove it around a busy downtown core for everyone to see in one famous example of this sort of branding accomplished.

You were expecting to see a ski rack, but instead, you saw a whole vehicle.

The Soup Nazi from Seinfeld is a renowned fictitious "brand" that fits into this category.

The Soup Nazi is nasty, has a short fuse, and will even prevent clients from returning to his restaurant for relatively minor transgressions, breaking every customer service guideline ever created.

What's remarkable about these companies is that instead of downplaying their flaws, they emphasize them. They intended to make friends, but they went out of their way to make enemies as well.


One thing becomes obvious as you make your way through Moon's tour of the world's most distinct businesses.

If you truly want to be different in a way that makes a difference, you'll need a good amount of bravery. This book is for you if you believe you are up to the task.

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