What Does it Mean to be Different? Review of Different by Youngme Moon

July 27th, 2010

“Different” by Youngme Moon is a book about brands and how to understand what makes one brand different from one another and how a company can become different.  Though this is by and large a business book, I found it changed the way I thought about being “different.”

And for full disclosure, I read this book right after the surprisingly disappointing Linchpin by Seth Godin, which was touted as a book about being different.  Unlike, Linchpin,  I found this book to be a good read that actually made me think about what we mean by “different.”

Moon argues that most businesses talk about being different but don’t do anything to be different..  What they think is “different” is really one of two things:

  1. Augmentation by addition: adding new features to a product
  2. Augmentation by multiplication: adding new lines of product: diet coke, coke with lime, cherry coke, etc.

When brands try to be “different” they really end up doing the same thing as everyone else.

In “Different”, Moon takes use trough different types of brands:

Reverse-positioned brands: brands that take away something you want but give you something unexpected, like JetBlue that takes away first class and round trip tickets but gives everyone leather seats and an entertainment center.

Breakaway brands: brands that re-categorize their brands as something else, e.g. Hugggies turned a diaper into a “pull-up”..

Hostile brands: brands that flaunt the fact that the brand is not for everyone, e.g. Hollister has only sizes 0-9

She uses these brand types to guide us to her main point: being different is not just a marketing tactic, it is a way of thinking.

The Good

I like the way Moon starts out the book.  She realizes that in words used to categorize brands they should not be taken as gospel.  They are just a starting point—a frame of reference—to start a conversation.

I wish more books said that.  Categories are merely heuristics to build a framework.  I wish more books (Ahem, Malcolm Gladwell!) would state this clearly instead of making people run around trying to fit something into a framework that doesn’t quite fit.

Moon is very clear that she is not trying to deliver the be-all-end-all of “difference.”  She is giving you a place to start.  And this book did get me thinking about what it really means to be “different” rather than just telling me that I or my business should be different.

The Bad

This book is not a rah rah book. It doesn’t give a bunch of platitudes about how great it would be if your business were “different.”  If you are looking for something to motivate you this is NOT that book.

I see this as good, but this “you can go it” style without substance is what passes for a lot of business books these days.

Different is nothing like that.   But I found it to be an easy read with plenty of case studies to illustrate the point.

The Verdict

Get the book!(affiliate link).  If you’re in business, it would be a good resource for you to think about your brand.  If you are just interested in the idea of being different and trying to figure out what difference really is, I think you will also find this book worthwhile.

Not convinced?  You can read an excerpt from the author’s site.

And you can view the cool video trailer for the book.


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