A Different Way to Differentiate Yourself

You are different. No one else possesses your personality, perspectives, gifts, and experiences. Much of the value you contribute to the lives of others stems from your being different.

Those closest to you know you’re different, but what happens if your customers, clients, and coworkers fail to see how you’re different?

Is there anything you can do to help them see that you’re not like everyone else?

What’s “Different” about “Different”?

My bank recently debuted a new tagline: “Things are Different Here.” This tagline fails in part because it’s not true. My bank isn’t different. With a few small exceptions, their products and services are just like every other bank.

But there’s a deeper flaw in this statement that emerges when we compare it to Apple’s slogan, “Think Different.”

Both use the word “Different” and both infer positive associations with the word, but their similarities end there.

“Things are Different Here” draws attention to my bank. In a similar vein, a well-known hotel chain says, “You’ve come to a different place.” In both cases, these companies cast themselves as the hero in their taglines.

“Think Different” has a different hero in mind. It speaks to the “crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes … the ones who see things differently.” The hero of the Apple slogan is everyone that thinks different.

Why should you join my bank? Because they’re different. Why should you buy Apple products? Because you’re different.

See the difference?

Answer the Third Question

No one cares that you’re different. The fact that you’re different doesn’t interest the people—clients, customers, and co-workers—in the way we think it might. What they really want to know is:

1. Can you help me?

At their most basic level, people want you to solve a problem for them.

2. Do you enjoy helping me?

But people don’t just want you to solve their problems. They want you to want to solve their problems.

3. Do you know me?

At their deepest level, people want to know that you recognize them as unique individuals. They want to know that you know them, not just know about them.

You’re not in business for long if you don’t answer the first question. Fewer companies answer the second question. But if we want to build loyalty, we have to answer the third question.

How to Differentiate Yourself

An interesting thing happens when you answer the third question: People see you as different. From the sea of your rivals, you buoy to the surface, but not because you’ve talked about being different.

People come to see you as different because you first saw them as different.

Maybe the people you’re trying to reach aren’t “the crazy ones.” Maybe they’re buttoned up and boring. It doesn’t matter, I’ll ask you the same question:

Do you know them?

More importantly, do they know that you know them? Only then will they ever see you as different.

Andrew Robinson