Escaping the Competitive Herd

by Youngme Moon

Number of pages: 288

Publisher: Crown Business

BBB Library: Sales and Marketing, Corporate Success

ISBN: 9780307460868

About the Author

Moon is the Donald K. David Professor at the Harvard Business School, where she teaches one of the most popular courses in the school’s curriculum.


Editorial Review

Imagine that you are standing in the middle of the cereal section of your local supermarket. Your job is to select a cereal you’ve never tried before, ideally one you’ll end up enjoying. How would you go about doing it? If you happen to be someone who has eaten cereal on a fairly regular basis throughout your life, the task is actually not that hard. In all likelihood, you’d simply walk down the aisle, mentally eliminating entire batches of cereals at once, say: all of the children’s cereals ... or anything that looked too sugary. You’d then winnow your selections further by applying a secondary set of filters, for example, anything with granola, or anything high fiber. After you’d narrowed the aisle down to a small subset of cereals ــــ maybe six or seven brands ــــ you’d layer on a few additional criteriaــــ perhaps dismissing anything containing raisins or anything in an ugly boxــــ until, boom, you’d made your selection.

Book Reviews

"So it’s no surprise that her new book,Different, is both refreshing in its honesty and challenging in its implications for established companies (and cautious leaders) in all sorts of industries." Harvard Business Review

"Some books age well, and Differentis no exception." Tech Crunch

"Youngme Moon’s Different: Escaping the Competitive Herdis one great read and one that can help you answer those questions for yourself. Moon brings an scholar’s sense of exploration and discovery blended with the frankness and humor of Malcolm Gladwell’s best work" Tim Peter & Associates

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Wisdom to Share

Only those who dare to be different in times of similarities win.

In business, differentiation is everything.

If you’re a brand manager, this is precisely what you want: people who not only love your brand but feel that it’s the only brand able to deliver what they’re looking for.

when these two ingredients ــــ passion and comparative expertise ــــ yield a particular brand preference, they become tenacious in their combination for the express reason that they add up to a sense of irreplaceability.

Anytime we’re willing to publicize our brand affinity to the rest of the world, our connection to the brand is likely to be pretty robust, and marketers know this.

The paradox of progress is that it makes things better, until it makes things worse.

In business, it can be useful to be a time-shifter. Because if you happen to be someone who operates in the past-present-future all at once, you’re likely to see how an overabundance of positives could eventually give birth to a negative.

Some may be better than none. But more may not be better than some, and more-more-more may not be any good at all; when you are stuck in a moment, it’s easy to forget this.

Because companies recognize that different people have different preferences, they’ll frequently hatch specialized versions of their product in an attempt to meet the needs of specific consumer segments.

When businesses engage in augmentation-by-addition, the idea is to please customers by giving them what they expect, plus more.

It’s not that we’re demanding of the future; it’s that we’re unforgiving. We put our faith in the promise of progress, but if it just so happens that the future gets it a little bit wrong, we can be disappointed to the point of disillusion.

A good description is one that captures distinctiveness along dimensions that make sense to us. If it doesn’t do this, we have no means of figuring out where to place the described entity in our heads.

Description of differences can be a delicate challenge for the describer. The deeper you try to dig into the essence of the thing, the further you have to reach to come up with the right words to do justice to what you’re describing.

As the number of products within a category multiplies, the differences between them start to become increasingly trivial, almost to the point of preposterousness.

One quick way to gauge the maturity of a category is to simply track the number of product variants in it.

If aliens were to visit a grocery store or a drugstore in this world, they would have to conclude that we are a people hooked on the pleasures of picking needles out of haystacks ــــ of selecting a cereal among an ocean of cereal boxes, of selecting a bar of soap among an ocean of soap bars.

There is perhaps no better way to get a glimpse into the mass consumption values of a culture than to visit the place where the inhabitants of that culture purchase the stuff of daily livingــــsoap, food, shoes.

Where a connoisseur can discern subtle shades of distinction based on nuanced asymmetries, a novice lacks the necessary filters to canvas, to organize, to sift an assortment in a meaningful way.

Where a connoisseur sees the differences, a novice sees the similarities.