Different Is Better Than Better

On my last trip to Europe, I picked up “Fascinate” by Sally Hogshead at the Airport bookstore, as a way to pass time over the Atlantic. Generally, these marketing books are easily forgotten, but in this case one simple idea stood out: the idea of being different.

As Techies, we often forget about the sheer amount of noise in today’s society. We come up with taglines that focus on an obscure benefit of our product but fail to immediately differentiate it. But, being different, standing out, is really much more important from a marketing point of view than being a bit better. Nobody remembers “a bit better”. Nobody remembers “We are X meets Y”, we are “Uber for pets”, etc. The field is too crowded, our attention spans are too small, the message is forgotten.

As an example, let’s consider an Ad tech company I know called Conversion Logic. Great company, great CEO (a friend), but here is their tagline:

Improve marketing returns across your portfolio by 15–30% with XC LogicTM advanced attribution software

From ten thousand feet, my take-away is “we’re a bit better than the other guys”. 22.5% better, to be exact. I’m not getting why Conversion Logic is any different than other solutions. It’s not burning a brand in my brain.

From my own perspective, we made the same mistake early on with Troop. A few months ago, we floated the idea of Troop as a kind of “Slack on Steroids” (the exact words of one of my early Beta testers). But the reality is that Troop is not better than Slack. It’s a different kind of Tool. It’s key feature is that is built on the idea of cards and boards. It’s a place for organizing things, not just chatting with the team by channel. It’s not 10 times better than Slack for chat, but it is 10 times better than Dropbox for managing content.

The key differentiator of Troop is its focus on Cards. This is not a small thing, it’s the entire product. Instead of chatting on channels, Troop stimulates conversations and note taking on Individual cards. And instead of a single, monolithic chat interface, there are multiple ways to view a board of cards: either as a (Facebook style) feed, as a KanBan set of tags, as a list, as a Grid, as a rich Document, or as a traditional chat board. It’s 100% different from Slack or any other product.

The book “Positioning” by Ries and Trout is the classic in the field. It explains that once a brand has conquered the positioning war in the eye of the consumer, it’s generally over. Nobody is going to displace Coke in the Cola category, Heinz in Ketchups, Gillette in Razors, or Slack for Team Chat. But new categories can be created: Vitamin Water defined a new kind of soft drink distinct from traditional colas. Sriracha defined a new type of Hot Sauce. Dollar Shave Club defined a new way to buy Razors, and Troop is going to introduce the idea of Cards to Group Collaboration.

Different really is, as Sally Hogshead says, better than better.

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