Being Different is Better Than Being Better

Whether you’re a small business owner, membership association, or a service provider, it’s easy to fall into the “better” trap. This thinking—and I’m sure it will sound familiar—goes something like this:

“We offer education to our professional members too, only WE do it better.” “Let’s open a sub sandwich chain, but we’ll make our subs better.” “My dental practice is better because I have more advanced clinical skills.”

But take a tip from branding history. In the marketplace, a difference of degree (being better) is never as powerful as a difference of kind.

​Remember Jolt Cola? If you don’t, there’s a reason why. They tried to promote their difference of degree by positioning themselves as a higher-energy cola. (“All the sugar and twice the caffeine!”) Then along came Red Bull and created a whole new category—an energy drink—that was not a cola or soft drink at all. A true difference of kind. Red Bull is #76 on the Forbes World's Most Valuable Brands List while Jolt is relegated to the trash heap of failed ideas.

Here are some other examples…

Difference of degree: Lower fat yogurt (Dannon Light & Fit)

Difference of kind: Greek yogurt (Chobani)

Difference of degree: More powerful vacuum (Hoover)

Difference of kind: Cyclonic vacuum (Dyson)

Difference of degree: Highest bit video game console (Xbox 360)

Difference of kind: Motion activated video game console (Nintendo Wii)

Get the idea? When considering your offerings and how they will be positioned against the competition, it’s not just about what you will do better, it’s about what you will do differently. That’s what will stick in the consumer’s mind and create a preference for your business.

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