Book Review: Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd

Book Stack

Title: Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd

Author: by Youngme Moon

I just loved this book. Andrew, who as a 16 year old came to work with us 12 years ago, now with aspirations to set up in business himself, suggested I read this book, and I am glad he did!

Youngme thinks there’s a better way. She believes that the way to compete isn’t by being better. It’s by being different. Real people do not see the world the way business people see it; they don’t speak in bullet points; they don’t organise the world in flow charts and wireframes! Real people are unpredictable and beautifully disorganised.

Youngme doesn’t pretend this book is complete, however, she can communicate her ideas well and I would love to sit in on one of her lectures at Harvard Business School, where she is a professor of Marketing. Reading ‘Different’ is more like having an informal coffee with Youngme and discussing her ideas; her narrative style makes her examples more memorable and, in my mind, more useful.

Feedback from customers is how businesses are driven, however this creates a proliferation of sameness rather than differentiation. BRANDS do not stand out anymore and our emotional attachment to them is weaker than it has ever been. We need a new way to think about competition and Youngme had certainly got me thinking about this for the future. Brand affiliation is dying and we need to think about how we engage with our customers in a very different way. Just think about training shoes, bottled water and cereals at the supermarket, and in fact supermarkets themselves – they all just blur into one.

I love her concept of reverse brands, brands who say NO when others say YES; think Google and Ikea as good examples of these.

Hotels allow guests to have free cable in their room, but charge for a local call; they put soap in the bathroom for free and charge for the mini bar. If you question it from the inside out, you might just become different! We need creative thinking in all our economies and businesses.

The most refreshing business read so far this year and I love the graphics – well done Lynn Carruthers.


““DIFFERENT is different in every way. It is different from most business books in that it is full of wisdom and it is a real joy to read.” Jim Stengel, former global marketing officer, Proctor and Gamble; CEO, The Jim Stengal Company.”

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