Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd by Youngme Moon

Summary
  1. Consumers have become more thoughtful and hyperbolic marketing is more likely to backfire today. More refined advertising and better knowledge of what customers truly want is necessary. This book explores the companies that are different by taking this more refined path
Key Takeaways
  1. Rote memorization and “over knowing” things leads to mindlessness and us truly ceasing to know
  2. Two approaches to attempt to explain and understand complex things – extreme reductionism and adding layers of color from a variety of sources which can help us better grasp the topic
  3. Experts can better categorize and therefore distinguish nuances more quickly. Can become an expert either through deep immersion or early adoption in which case you mature and evolve and learn alongside the product.
    1. The connoisseur is the ideal customer as they are experts and aficionados but as category matures, even the experts may lose interest as products become too similar. Devotion declines and strict adherence to the product begins to feel silly – heterogeneous homogeneity.
    2. Microsegmentation to the point of senselessness. Change becomes a meaningless commodity.
    3. Hyper-maturity leads to falling brand loyalty – additional features begin to feel like annoyances rather than adding value
    4. Evolution of products tends to go from a couple major players to many but product proliferation does not mean product diversity. As a category matures, diversity decreases leading to homogeneity
  4. Once aberrations become a bit too frequent, conventional wisdom begins to evolve and transform – old truths become myths. Shift in business today from competing and collapsing into each other to competing to differentiate.
    1. The first to let go of the old myth has a massive advantage – these are the ones who understand the rules so well they know how to and when to break them
  5. A good description gets to the heart of what differentiates it and invites comparison. Experts often get lost in prose and don’t address what their customers really want
  6. Any competitive and widely adopted metric tends to incentivize herd behavior
  7. Differentiation or excellence is rarely an outcome of well-roundedness but rather of lopsidedness 
  8. Complex, self organizing systems, which companies and people are, tend to follow and often imitate what those closest to them are doing (flocking birds example). The micro determines the macro
  9. The what and why over the how. Give people high expectations and then let them loose. You’ll likely get the result but probably not in the fashion you imagined.
  10. Augmentation by addition – add features to products over time
  11. Augmentation by multiplication – introduce new product lines
  12. When our surroundings transform, so do we. First we make our environment, then our environment makes us
  13. Be a time shifter – replay your market, fast forward, put yourself above time and see what possible alternatives in your market may be
  14. Idea companies – the different companies often act orthogonally to expectations. They rise above competition and do something different than what is expected
    1. Reverse brands
      1. Google (cleanest home page possible); a reverse brand in that it said no to busy home page and attributes all else he but then had such amazing product it added to its mystique  – a beautiful oxymoron
      2. IKEA – withholds most benefits people would conceivably want but also do away with annoying sales reps. Thoughtfully reducing certain benefits is often very appreciated. Eliminate the needless and do a great job with the essential
      3. In-N-Out Burger also very minimalist but high quality and secret menu drives fanaticism
      4. Jet Blue got rid of classes but has luxurious seats and personal entertainment
    2. Breakaway brands – recognize people’s categorization are fragile but deeply drive consumption. These products break these archetypes and form new ones – deliver what we expect in a completely different way. Stereotypes give us the average rather than the variance. Breakaway brands take advantage of the variance. People “get” the brand immediately and love it. No explanation is necessary – they are paradoxes which marry seemingly contradictory traits
      1. Huggies as big kid underpants vs diapers
      2. Swatch a cool, cheap watch when other Swiss watches were all expensive).
    3. Hostile brands erect barriers to consumption. This seems counterintuitive but it can drive incredible loyalty as consuming the product shows how hard you worked to attain it. Traction requires friction and hostile brands add tension on purpose
      1. Red Bull’s taste got terrible formal market reviews but the founder went ahead anyway
      2. Marmite is either hated or loved but those who love it will go to great lengths to obtain it
  15. Important to know what competitors are doing but it cannot be main focus. Absolute focus on serving customer 
  16. Great ideas tend to be very fragile early on because often they are indistinguishable from crazy ideas. Suspending skepticism allows some of these fragile ideas to bloom and evolve
  17. These different companies never rely on formal market research
  18. They know what the customers have in abundance, what is scarce, what they value and deliver something very different which still meets expectations. They will also be intensely human – founders who deeply understand human nature. Intuition becomes increasingly valuable
What I got out of t
  1. Thought it was a really interesting read and will try to notice when brands are reversals, breakaways or hostile