Ways of creating effective differentiation

As a culture, we have moved well past the point where we are impressed by the traditional markers of influence – the profusion of look-alike choices, the embarrassing display of whistles and bells – according to Youngme Moon in her book Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd. More-of-the-same never adds up to the best. Instead, the marketer needs to be able to ascertain not just the things that we want but also the things that we do not.

Some of the key ideas contained in the book:

  • Market segmentation and product augmentation, while attempting to create differentiation, have actually led to meaningless distinctions.
  • Competitive analysis and comparative metrics have generated conformity and resulted in competitive herding, with all competitors blurring together in the mind of the customer.
  • One way of creating effective differentiation is to subtract features from the offering, creating difference by stripping away the superfluous.
  • Another way of creating effective differentiation is to create polarization, so that some people hate your offering while others love it.
  • Another way of creating effective differentiation is to transform an offering into a different category in the perception of customers.

The book is written in a discursive manner, rather than being constructed according to a clearly defined plan. This works quite well because of the author’s engaging writing style. I found most of the author’s arguments to be quite persuasive. The book is not, and does not purport to be, a definitive manual on the subject of differentiation, but it does in my view provide a good introduction to many aspects of differentiation which are not yet widely understood.

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