Last Updated on 10 September 2020


Differentiation has become one of those marketing buzz words we hear too often. So frequently, the term seems to have lost its meaning. Nevertheless, it is a fundamental concept.

I prefer the term “remarkability.” Doing the things that cause people to make remarks about you – literally being remarkable.

There’s a great quote in the book Do Purpose: Why Brands With A Purpose Do Better And Matter More. Author, David Hieatt wrote…

Be Remarkable.
(People Don’t Remember Average)

Let’s take a look at why being remarkable is so important and why it pays to be different.

You: Serving Customer Needs

So here you are… offering your product. Doing what you do well and providing customers what they want. Sales are high. Everyone is happy. You own the market for your product or service.

We’ll give that a happy check-mark.

It Pays To Be Different: Serving Customer Needs

You & Competition: Serving Different Customer Needs

Next, we have a situation where you provide customers Product A, and your competition is providing Product B. For example, you offer Italian food, your competition offers French cuisine. Sure, you’re both in the restaurant business, but catering to different taste preferences.

So, you both do well.
It Pays To Be Different: You & Competition Serving Different Customer Needs

What is interesting about this situation is that we have been experiencing a trend where – instead of being happy with specialization – brands are expanding offerings to try to take business away from the competition.

Olive Garden hops on the burger trend with an Italiano Burger. Dairy Queen serves a quesadilla. Subway offers “Flatizza” pizza. And, Taco Bell – not wanting to miss out on the morning daypart – offers breakfast including a waffle sausage taco.

It Pays To Be Different: Fast Food Bandwagon

I understand the concept of increasing sales by expanding offerings to appeal to a broader audience. But, if customers aren’t going to come to you for your specialty, they probably won’t be attracted by something that isn’t your core competency.

Copying your competition is the opposite of trying to be different and remarkable. These are bandwagon offerings – making you fit in, be more similar.

Few of us are running a business where we are the only provider of a particular product or service. We are offering things that are popular, and we’ve got competition.

(And, if you are the first to the market – and there is a demand – competition is coming.)

You & Competition: Same Product / Same Customers

Now we’re in a situation where the customer has a choice in getting what they want from more than one provider who does it well.

Customers have a choice between you and your competition. The result will be a reduction of your sales.

Hmmm? What to do? This requires a question mark in our diagram.

It Pays To Be Different: You & Competition: Same Product / Same Customer

So, now what?

The best way to attract customers and prevent them from going to your competition is by offering, being, or doing something different… To be remarkable and provide value in a way that your competitor isn’t and can’t.

Be The –EST, not the –ER

Let’s say you’re in the restaurant business. We recommend you find a way to be the –EST in what you do, not the –ER. Here’s an example.

Your competition…

  • Is fast.
  • They’ve got a menu that’s tasty.
  • They’ve got service that’s friendly.

You could make your business “-ER” by being…

  • faster, tastier and friendlier than your competition.

However, if you’re going to make the effort, instead of simply trying to complete what they do, you should beat what they do.

If you’re going to stand out and be remarkable, make yourself the…

  • fastest, tastiest and friendliest.

Being the –EST gets you noticed and differentiates you, from your competition, in the mind of your customer.

We’ll put a star in that spot!

It Pays To Be Different: High Differentiation

By being different, by being remarkable, you can differentiate yourself from the competition. You are no longer offering the same thing, and customers will be able to notice the difference.

So, being different truly does pay!

Oh, by the way… this article was first posted as an article in our free Sand For Your Inbox newsletter. Maybe you want to subscribe and get articles like this sent directly to your inbox?