Standing out from the crowd has essentially become a cliche in the business world. However, while a cliche, the world's best brands are able to take a point of difference and turn it into a competitive advantage. In light of this, Youngme Moon has identified the problems with the “herd mentality”, and suggests three distinct ways you can apply this thinking to your business.
In business, herd thinking applies itself in the following way. In almost every single category of business, a market leader defines itself by one or two qualities, and then the rest of the market will follow suit. For example, take SUVs. 20 years ago, Jeep became synonymous with ruggedness. If that's what you wanted, you bought a Jeep. If you wanted reliability, you were more likely to purchase a Nissan or Toyota. In the 20 years since, ruggedness and reliability became the characteristics of SUVs, and all those vehicles started to look the same—a mix of ruggedness and reliability. This phenomena happens in almost every category. Moon argues contrarily that this is not the path to success. The path to success is focussing on what makes you different.
The first way to be different is to use the concept of “reversal”. Consider the case of Google. Back before they took the search engine scene you were likely trying to compete with Yahoo!. And if you were trying to replicate Yahoo! you would likely be trying to fit more and more features on your homepage, not less as Google had done. They completely redesigned how search engines looked by only having the search engine on the page. The perfect example of a reversal.
The second way to be different is to become a “breakaway” brand. As humans, we often categorize things so that we can make sense of them. What breakaway brands do is replace one categorization with another. The Simpsons is a great example of this. By first glance, it has the look of a children’s cartoon. However, we know that it is anything but. It rolls the cartoon and the adult sitcom into one. The greatest benefit of a breakaway brand is that when we are presented with it for the first time, we immediately understand it. Even though it is different from everything else, we immediately understand why we need it.
The first way Moon outlines is to use hostility to your advantage. Moon explains that a hostile brand “instead of laying down the welcome mat, they lay down a gauntlet” this is just about as different as you can get. These brands don't try and play down their faults, they embellish them. They set out to create friends, but they actively set out to create enemies as well.