Differentiation (and Haircuts)

Illustration by MK

Differentiation is how you make your product stand out from the crowd. Differentiated products (and companies) always do better than average, not-very-special ones.

Humans, Haircuts, and Peacocks

The world of people and animals is full of great examples of differentiation – it’s how evolution works.

For thousands of generations, modern human beings (homo sapiens) evolved to differentiate themselves from other animals. They figured out how to use fire, make iron and weapons, harvest crops, fly airplanes – not to mention grew taller and stronger.

And then to differentiate themselves from other humans, they invented haircuts. People go crazy for haircuts because it’s a great way to stand out from the crowd. Add in makeup, jewelry and clothing, and you can really set yourself apart.

The animal world has known this all along: think of the peacock with its plumage, the silkie chicken, the alpaca, or the fluffy hamster.

But in business, differentiation is not just how you look (though that matters), but what your product can do versus the competition.

Is your product faster, stronger, longer-lasting, more prestigious, more trusted by professionals or made with better ingredients or components? If so, congratulations, you’re differentiated!

Some of the best known companies have differentiated their products so successfully that they’re admired worldwide. Like Apple with its super easy-to-use products. Or Toyota, with its highly reliable cars that run forever with little maintenance. Or Lego, with its highly playable and versatile building toys.

Differentiation by itself won’t make your business a success. Your product can’t just be different, it must also be high quality and have other things customers want (like the right price, availability etc).

Without differentiation, you’re just a commodity, and your business won’t be that great.

So think about it. What can you be better at that makes you different and helps you rise above the crowd?

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