Be Different – But Not TOO Different by Rich

Here’s a piece of marketing wisdom I think you’ll find useful. I do believe this is my own original discovery.

In every aspect of marketing, you want to be different. If you look and sound the same as your competitors or everyone else, you don’t stand out. You won’t get noticed and it is almost impossible for someone to remember you.

I once sat in an attorney’s office and clicked through to the ten websites on the first page of Google search results for their top search term. Then I asked them to tell me anything they remembered about any of them.

Silence. They were all the same.

If you aren’t different, you are almost by definition, boring. The first cat video you ever saw was cute. The 12,382nd? Not so much.

TOO Different

On the other hand, it is very possible to be TOO different. If an attorney’s website looks like something out of Sesame Street, it is not going to be taken seriously.

You can look at every aspect of marketing and in every case, you’ll be able to see how you can be TOO different, or not different enough.

If you aren’t different enough, you’re not going to get people’s attention or interest.

If you are too “out-there” you’ll be considered weird, unserious, or maybe even dangerous.


In 2010, GEICO pioneered slightly out-there, witty auto insurance advertising. From the start, with their “so easy a caveman can do it.” That was incredibly successful. Inevitably, other insurance companies imitated with Progressive’s Flo, Allstate’s “Mayhem” character and Farmer’s “Hall of Claims.” I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember what insurance company the “Mayhem” character promotes, and I don’t find Farmer’s ads very funny. Just not different enough.

Ways to Apply

It’s always a good idea to survey competitors. That gives you a good benchmark of what is “usual” and an idea of what might be too out-there. We’ve gone so far as (in the days when people actually used Yellow Pages) to getting a copy of the relevant Yellow Pages section to see what the other ads looked like. Or go into hotel lobbies to see what colors were being used on rack cards. Certainly looking at competitors websites is vital.

When we are doing internet marketing for a client, we look at Google search results pages to see how the listings are worded. If they all say “St. Louis best plumbers” you will want yours to say something else.

Just to list some of the aspects of marketing that this can apply to:

  • Color scheme.
  • Choice of fonts.
  • Website main imagery.
  • Ad Headlines.
  • Sale or Discount offers.
  • Free offers.
  • Guarantees.
  • Advertising placement (someone made a lot of money when they first put ads on the floor in supermarkets).

I’m sure you can think of more.

Don’t be afraid to be edgy. If you aren’t, chances are no one will even notice you are talking. The trick is to tell when you are going TOO far. But people tend more towards being too much the same. A lot of people have gotten rich by being different. Ask Richard Branson.

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