opinion

Try Something Different

Stephen Yagielowicz
Lot's of folks are grasping right now to come up with something different — something that will set their site apart from a sea of competitors and immediately provide a visual distinction and enhanced brand identity that seeks to say, "Hey, we're not those other guys!"

It's that positive first impression in the mind of the consumer that is the goal; and the means by which it can be achieved are often both subtle and obvious at the same time. While some approaches to realizing this goal may seem overly simple, the challenges that must be overcome in doing so may be far more complicated.

Here's two examples:

When you consider what a magazine is, you might tend to think of an 8.5x11.5 inch print publication with a colorful cover. Perhaps your vision includes a newsstand rack, offering endless row after row of magazines all sharing a similar size, shape and form factor. How do you stand out from the crowd when your product is really much the same as your competitor's, in scope, reach, context and content?

XBIZ World solved the problem by going with a larger physical size that said, "Hey, I'm bigger!" — And in American culture, bigger is better. But it's not just the book that is larger, it's the ads inside that are also larger, allowing advertisers to enjoy the same bigger and better feeling as readers. All told, it was a simple solution to a not so simple problem…

Microsoft likewise faced a similar situation when it developed its new Bing search engine.

If you asked a group of Internet users prior to Bing's launch, "What's a search engine look like?" they would likely describe a plain, white Google-style webpage with a simple search box and perhaps a logo that changes its look for special occasions.

If Microsoft had met its target market's expectations as to what a search engine "looks like," then it would be perceived as just another Google wannabe. I believe that there would be much less interest in Bing, and far less use of it, if it had gone the stark white route. Instead, Bing offers up a fresh, wide screen image every day as its homepage — a high quality image that often becomes my desktop image.

The flavor of the site, at least at first blush, is as "Un-Google" as you can get, even if functionally it mirrors the same feature set as any other search engine. Type in a term and hit "search" — just how many unique ways can you present an input field and submit button?

Microsoft found an answer to that question and the result may be enough to compel many Google fans to try Bing, when they might not have otherwise bothered to do so. After all, if it looks so much different than what they're used to, then it must be different — And just like things that are bigger than their competitors, in America, things that are different also stand out from the crowd and get a second look.

Take a look at what you're doing: does your website or other offer look, feel and function just like its competitors? Is your excuse as to why it does, something like "It's a paysite — it's supposed to have a warning page, a three-page tour and a join page!" If so, then it's time to put on your thinking cap and to exercise a little creativity — you just might come up with something different.

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