What Does it Mean To Be Different?



I'm not a big fan of business books. I find them overly proscriptive, long-winded and they never hold my attention. But when I saw a promotional video produced by Xplane for YoungMe Moon's new book "Different"  I went out and ordered pre-ordered it almost a month before it was published.

It's quite possibly the best business book I've ever read.  It's structured more as a meditation on what it means to be Different and how we've lost sight of that in today's mass market world - a world where product marketers try so hard to be different - that the exact opposite happens - their products become a blur of similarity or as Professor Moon calls it "hetergenous homegenity"!

Her description of how traditional marketing and market research have yielded a "groupthink" mentality is fabulously entertaining as are her examples of the results of that groupthink:  "augmentation by addition" (toothpaste + breath freshener + teeth whitener) and "augmentation by multiplication" (not one sports drink but 18 different brands each offering a dozen or more different flavors).

The result?  Only a true brand connoisseur can appreciate the differences.  No one has time to know more than a few market details that well so most buying decisions become meaningless and brand loyalty has plummeted across the board. And the great irony is that while brand loyalty is more fleeting than ever, our choice of those brands we ARE loyal too has never been more central to our personality or said more about who we are.  Apple, Ikea, Birkenstocks, Mini Cooper, Hummer, Starbucks - think of people you know who are loyal to those brands and you can probably tick off a dozen characteristics they all share from income to education to political orientation to careers...

So what is a markerter to do?  What strategies are left to creating meaningful grooves of separation from the pack?  Professor Moon challenges us to think in a different and sometime heretical manner:

  1. Get off the augmentation treadmill, stop adding features, take something away from your market, but give them more of something else (e.g. You have to drive 2 hours to Ikea and put the furniture together yourself, but your kids can play and eat while you shop!)
  2. Stop listening to customers and market research (end the groupthink) and trust your gut and values.
  3. Ignore traditional category boundaries and expand the definition of what your product is (e.g. "diapers" become "pullups" and Pampers doubles its market size).
  4. Challenge consumer to embrace your perceived weaknesses (Mini Cooper = in an age of Hummers - the smallest possible car)

This is how you separate yourself, strengthen your brand and build loyalty.  It's a fascinating read.  Here is the very different video promo that first caught my eye.  As you can see Professor Moon practices what she preaches.  Oh...and the music is chill too...




Plymouth, MA  -  USA  -  Earth