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8 Unconventional Ways For Captivating Your Customers & Crushing Your Competition

Updated: Dec 11, 2023


8 Unconventional Strategies For Captivating Your Customers and Crushing Your Competition

What would it be worth if prospects and customers truly saw your company as unique?

In her book, “Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd,” Harvard Business School marketing professor Youngme Moon argues that “the ability to compete is dependent upon the ability to differentiate from competitors.”


However, she highlights a concerning reality: only a small number of companies truly achieve competitive separation. This is primarily due to the fact that companies often define their strengths and weaknesses using the same standards as their competitors, resulting in a lack of distinctiveness. This leads to homogeneity, and not differentiation.


So, how can you create one of the few organizations that becomes extraordinary?


One approach is to practice what we call "organizational kintsugi." In the 15th century, the Japanese Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa broke his favorite tea bowl. When attempts to repair it fell short, he instructed craftsmen to highlight the cracks instead of concealing them. Using lacquer and gold, they meticulously filled the seams, creating a new art form called kintsugi, which celebrated the beauty of imperfection. The result became the art of kintsugi, which highlights the broken as more beautiful than the pristine.


This is the foundation of our differentiation strategy. We believe companies can separate themselves from their competitors by highlighting their imperfections instead of eliminating them.


A “pink goldfish” is a company that embraces this unconventional approach to differentiation. We have compiled over 300 examples into a simple eight-part framework, starting with the concept of flaunting.


1. Flaunting


Flaunting means proudly showcasing your organization's flaws without shame. Rather than hiding or fixing them, you emphasize, accentuate, and openly display these imperfections. Alt Hotels, for instance, launched a campaign called "We Do Less," boasting about what they don't offer, while highlighting what they do provide.


We don’t have a minibar.


We don’t have a pool.


We don’t offer room service.


We do have an app with all the hot spots.


We do have fresh grab-and-go meals.


We do have a versatile, helpful staff.


Flaunting is the foundation. You can’t implement any of the next seven strategies if you are unwilling to practice flaunting.


2. Lopsiding


Lopsiding involves embracing unbalance, imperfection, instability, and oddity. Rather than reducing your brand's flaws, you amplify and magnify them, turning them into distinctive features. Hardee's Thickburger is a prime example of lopsiding. While competitors focused on healthier options, Hardee's offered the unhealthiest option. And customers loved it.


3. Antagonizing


Antagonizing is about polarizing, repelling, and provoking. Deliberately exasperate, irritate, and instigate hostility to stand out from the competition. Try to earn a few more one-star reviews on Amazon or Yelp. Tell your employees to increase the number of complaints. Ring a bell in the office every time you get a nasty email. Try it. The more some people hate you, the more other people will love you.


The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema antagonizes when they kick out customers who talk or text during movies. Search YouTube for the angry voicemail a customer sent after being expelled. Alamo turned it into a PSA, warning people not to talk or text in Alamo theaters.


4. Withholding


Withholding is about setting limitations, boundaries, and constraints. By offering fewer options, features, or perks than competitors, you purposefully differentiate your brand.

Chick-fil-A withholds by being closed on Sundays, not serving burgers, and rejecting 97% of franchise applications.


5. Swerving


Swerving is an intentionally mysterious concept that defies explanation, leaving room for intrigue and curiosity. It is a unique way to differentiate your brand, but we won't provide an explanation here to maintain its enigmatic appeal.


6. Opposing


Opposing is about doing the exact opposite of what others are doing. By taking a contradictory stance and refusing to conform, you create distinction. REI opposes when they close their stores and website on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year.


7. Micro-Weirding


Micro-weirding captures unconventional examples that don't fit into specific categories but are too remarkable to ignore. These micro-weird aspects add an extra layer of differentiation. The Magic Castle Hotel’s free popsicle hotline is micro-weird.


8. Exposing


Exposing revolves around transparency. Instead of hiding flaws, be honest about them. Prospects appreciate authenticity and are more likely to trust a company that openly acknowledges its imperfections. Nebraska’s new tourism campaign, where they admit that their state “isn’t for everyone,” is a great example of exposing.

To help you remember the eight steps, we decided to create an acronym, FLAWSOME:

  • Flaunting

  • Lopsiding

  • Antagonizing

  • Withholding

  • Swerving

  • Opposing

  • Micro-Weirding

  • Exposing

FLAWSOME is a combination of FLAWS and AWESOME. We believe your company’s flaws are what make it awesome. Are you ready to start flaunting your organization’s imperfections?!


David Rendall has spent the last 20 years speaking on every inhabited continent. Some of his clients include the U.S. Air Force, the Australian government, and Fortune 500 companies such as Microsoft, AT&T, and Fannie Mae among others. His credits also include being a leadership professor, stand-up comedian, and managing nonprofit enterprises that provided employment for people with disabilities. David’s educational accomplishments include a Doctorate of Management in organizational leadership and a graduate degree in psychology. To top that off, he is the author of four books and recently named TMT’s “Expert In Residence” on the topic of Public Speaking. To find out more about David’s coaching, keynotes, and workshops, visit him at DRendall.com.





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