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Different Beats Better

In a crowded marketplace, it’s more important to be different than better.


The ‘Better’ Old Days

There was a time when ‘better’ was enough. Back then, the market was less crowded. Fewer brands, less market clutter, fewer choices for customers to make.

At that time, advertising centered on promoting product benefits. A smoother ride. Brighter whites. Longer-lasting whatever.

That approach worked when there was less of everything and fewer demands on our attention.


Different > Better

It’s a different ball game today. Customers—and that’s all of us—are overwhelmed. With so many brands vying for our attention, we don’t have the ability or energy to parse incremental variations.

This is why differentiation is so important when positioning your organization. It’s effective because it aligns with the way our brains are actually designed—they’re hardwired to spot differences.

We don’t see all of the details in a scene. Instead, our brains notice the most important elements. Anything unimportant gets ignored.

Maybe it’s because in earlier times, something different in your environment could represent danger. If a saber-toothed tiger showed up, you’d better take note.

Whatever the reason, it’s great news, because you can leverage the mind’s filtering mechanism to make your brand more memorable.


But Don’t Just Be Different—Be Radically Different

Being different is a great start. But to see the greatest benefit, you should strive to be really different.

Radical differentiation is the single most effective strategy to help your organization stand out.

To be radically different, you need to go where your competitors are not.

This requires research and knowing your competition. What are they doing? What are they known for? How does their audience perceive them? Map their positioning and find some space you can own.


Easy to Say, Hard to Do

One reason organizations struggle with being radically different is the uncertainty that comes with it. Let’s face it, there’s safety in being part of the crowd—or only slightly different.

The animal world offers plenty of examples. Stay with the herd, don’t stand out, and live to see another day.

That strategy works for wildebeests, but not for brands. For brands, sameness is death.


What Does This Mean for Your Organization?

Whether you're building a brand for the first time, or need to reposition your organization, strive to be radically different.

It’s not easy. It takes strategy, teamwork, and a healthy dose of bravery—but the payoff can be huge. You will own a unique, uncluttered space in the minds of your audience.

And that is invaluable.



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Was this helpful? What challenges are you facing in building and growing your organization’s brand? Let me know in the comments or email me at hello@shanestarr.com.