Go for the extreme differentiation

Marketing should be about differentiation and standing out. I love marketing. I hate how bad marketing is applied. It is a regular topic of conversations with our client CEOs.

Lots of books

On Amazon, there are over 60,000 books listed about marketing.

And we can go on for a while. Culture, HRM, innovation, anthropology, Google, tribes, etc., etc.


There are strategic angles (“Break from the Pack” is a must read) and so is “The moment of clarity.”


Not quite sure where “Different” fits in. But it is a cracker. Written as marketing meandering, a journey with some fantastic insights. As a result, it is a very hard book to summarise. The best thing to do is to read the book. The book has two themes. Extreme sameness and extreme difference.

Same, same, same

Sameness. Category rot. A repetition of the same theme in the extreme. Meaningless differentiation. A competitive rat race where no-one stands out. Based on competitors watching each of each other’s move on collectively agreed on market metrics. Senseless micro-segmentation. Ongoing small augmentations as the route to commoditisation. Conformity. Similarity. The question to ask is how many product variants are there in your sector.

Stylized consumption

When all the world’s a stage, everything becomes a study in impression management; everything becomes the modern-day answer to the question; What do I want the world to think of me? Try it. Go online. Look carefully. Consumption has become the identity cloak of our generation.

Love Mark

When two ingredients—passion and comparative expertise—yield a particular brand preference, they become tenacious in their combination for the express reason that they add up to a sense of irreplaceability. If you’re a brand manager, this is precisely what you want—people who not only love your brand but feel that it’s the only brand able to deliver what they’re looking for.

You can’t be same, same, same as a love mark

Once the dual dynamics of competitive herding and competitive hyper-activity begin to dominate a category, the category itself starts to become incompatible with brand devotion. Brand loyalty is becoming harder to come by. We are living in a culture in which the hallmark of sophisticated consumption is a refusal to be impressed for very long.

Break from the pack

Which is why the author makes a case for “reverse-positioned branding.” A reverse-positioned brand is a very particular kind of idea brand, one that makes the deliberate decision to defy the augmentation trend in a category.


Nearly anti-marketing or break away brands. For the breakaway to strike the proper chord, we have to “buy” into the re-categorisation of the stereotypes. Is the AIBO a ROBOT or a PET? Are Pull-Ups a kind of DIAPER or a kind of UNDERPANTS? Is Cirque du Soleil a CIRCUS or not?

Transforming a market

Breakaway brands are transformative devices. By presenting us with an alternative frame of reference, they encourage us to let go of the consumption posture we’re inclined to bring to a product and embrace entirely new terms of engagement instead. When you witness the birth of a breakaway brand, you are often witnessing the birth of an entirely new subcategory, one that is likely to alter the complexion of that industry.

Take it or leave it

They are “take it or leave it” brands. These brands are not merely polarizing; they actively summon resistance. They flourish in the dramatic possibilities of polarization. They feed off the friction. They are stridently, vehemently differentiated, for better or for worse. What this means is that they give us a chance to differentiate ourselves, for better or worse.

Positive deviants

They are polarizing brands. They are lopsided brands. They are brands that are devoted to the skew. Positive deviants, brands that are exceptional, not because they can run harder or faster than the rest, but because at some fundamental level they have made a commitment to not taking the status quo for granted.

Resonating brands

Because these brands deviate in ways that reverberate. They speak to us. In a marketing environment saturated with overblown promises and cloudless false reality, nothing dents. However, these brands get as close to a cultural phenomenon as you will find in  business. What all of these brands have in common is that they have been able to cultivate the most elusive of all customer segments: folks willing to be missionaries for their brand.

No formal market research

Brands such as The Heavenly Bed, Google, IKEA, JetBlue, In-N-Out Burger, Sony AIBOR, Pull-UpsRe, Cirque du Soleil, SwatchR, Alessi, MINI-Cooper, Red Bull, Birkenstock, Marmite, A Bathing Ape, Hollister, Benetton, Apple, Harley-Davidson and Dove Real Beauty. And here is the kicker; their differentiation strategies were not driven by formal market research.

Be different

Difference is deviance. Difference is permutation. Difference is a commitment to the unprecedented. Differentiation is not a tactic. It is a way of thinking. It is a mindset, a mindset that comes from listening and observing and absorbing and respecting.Go break from the pack, be different, eat the bug, fight dirty, polarize, show your teeth, kill the giants.


sensemaking cover


Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

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