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Don’t be better. Be different.

We try to be good children. We have a report card of As and Bs and one C, and we focus on how to turn the C into a higher grade.

What’s wrong with us? Well, perhaps it starts with a question, What’s wrong with us. A better question is what’s different about us? And who can that matter and how?

The stone cold marketing fact is that it works much better to be different than better.

Would you rather be The Ground Round or Hooters, assuming business success were criteria. Let’s face it, there are a lot of restaurants offering greasy fries, dark decor and lots of undercooked beef.

But how many mammary-themed restaurant chains are there?

Different is memorable. Different is less expensive. Different is much more effective.

The Ground Round went into bankruptcy in 2006, and the surviving franchisee’s took over from the dead center. But they didn’t try to do it different, they just tried to be better. A 2006 trade journal article lauds their initial success in building locations from 60 to over 80. Today, they stand at about 30 locations. Their commercials promise good tasting food and point out that the atmosphere is “never boring.” But the boring commercials undermine the claim. Meanwhile, Hooters is fast becoming a global legend with nearly a thousand locations. Are they any better? Prosperity has allowed them to execute better, yes. But, they only gained that prosperity by being different. And of course, not merely different, but different in a way that uniquely appeals to a target audience worth winning.

The money we waste in notable and foolhardy attempts to be better is appalling. First offer a definably different experience. Then get better at being different.

That’s what people want. And that’s what pays.

JetBlue has kept me sitting on a tarmac for a total of 12 hours on just 2 flights. Yet, they still get a fair percentage of my business. I like the different attitude- which has admittedly acquired a bit of a dark side- I like the different (leather) seats, the direct TV, and the egalitarian atmosphere of one class passenger from the front to the back of the plane.

JetBlue isn’t better at everything. But they are still wonderfully different.

But how long will that last? Recently, I upgraded within a JetBlue flight to seats with a bit more legroom. The seats around me were empty, but when people with cheaper seats tried to move up, the crew hectored them to go back to their seats. I got to enjoy listening to them talk about idiots like me who would pay for such a thing.

I fear JetBlue is bleeding away at their difference with a thousand small cuts. Turn back JetBlue, before it’s too late. This is a message of love from a true brand advocate.