Is it more important to be different or great?
It’s obviously important to be great… But if you could only have one or the other, which value, “different” or “great”, would you be more likely to be successful with?
The answer to this critical question can be found in the following example from the automobile industry –
Perhaps it’s unfair, but being great isn’t enough. Being wildly different than what’s out there is often the biggest predictor of whether or not you’ll be able to grab significant market share.
Take the Toyota Prius as an example. When it hit the scene, it made a big splash. Was it because of its performance? No. Was it because of its looks? Certainly not. Was it gas mileage? Somewhat.
But the real reason the Prius made waves was because of its hybrid engine. Never before had there been a mainstream, affordable, mass-produced hybrid car. This certainly was the future. This was special. And this was, most importantly, unique.
As a result, it sold. It seemed like overnight, everyone suddenly had a Prius. It didn’t matter that it had dull handling, mediocre acceleration, and looks that could (even at one’s most compassionate) be described as ugly. It didn’t even matter too much when the factory recalls started pouring in.
When you’re different from everything else, your uniqueness obliterates all other narratives about your product.
Compare the success of the Prius to how the Mazda 3 has fared. The Mazda 3 is cheaper, offers a similar amount of passenger space, is significantly quicker, handles much better, and is truly a beautiful car.
Yet, the Prius has outsold the Mazda 3 every year since its rise to prominence. Why? It’s simple: The Mazda 3 never could claim uniqueness outright in any capacity.
There have always been cars just like it. Maybe they make theirs a bit better than most, but that’s a narrative that’s hard to make stick. Everyone claims that their product is better, so it’s hard to show that yours actually is.
To be successful in any industry, you will need elements of both – greatness and differentiation. The above example proves there is no doubt the perception of a product or its brand being different enables the possibility for it to be noticed in the first place.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking for kids in Compton as part of Music Unites Day.
When new artists approach legendary A&R manager Randy Jackson and he asks them what they do, he said the conversation typically goes something like this –
Artist: I make music.
Randy: There are a lot of people who make music.
Artist: Well, I sing really well… I act……. I dance…… I’m cute.
Randy: You’re in LA. Everybody is cute.
Artist: I’m like a combination of so and so artist.
Randy: I’m looking to sell something unique!
Then, he proceeded to give countless examples of legendary artists who would never dare compare themselves to or describe themselves as a blend of other artists.
There are practically infinite recording artists in our world. Digitization has made it easier than ever to upload your songs for streaming.
In order to break through the noise, an artist must separate themselves. They must create art which is truly different. They must stand for something bold and build a brand around it.
Many of the most talented artists in the world don’t make it all the way to the top. Sometimes they do, but more often than not, it’s the one who are different, and position their talent (organically or manufactured) in a way which accentuate those differences, that make their way to the top.
Don’t underestimate how great you or your artist has to be, but remember, you must be different.