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How to Be Different: “Zag!”


You probably know Marty from his book “The Brand Gap“. His most recent book “Zag: The Number One Strategy of High-Performance Brands” talks about and teaches us how to create and harness the power of differentiation in a cluttered marketplace.

Who: Marty Neumeier

What: Zag! Be Different. No, REALLY Different.

What is it?

As the pace of business quickens and the number of brands multiplies, it’s customers, not companies, who decide which brands live and which ones die.

An over-abundance of look-alike products and me-too services is forcing customers to search for something, anything, to help them separate the winners from the clutter.

The solution? When everybody zigs, zag.

How is it done?

Qualities of Good and Different
To find your zag, look for ideas that combine the qualities of good and different.

Good are the attributes that customers value: quality, workmanship, good aesthetics, low price, high functionality, ease of use, speed, power, style…

Different are the attributes that make you different: surprising, weird, ugly, fresh, crazy, offbeat, novel…

Your Onliness Statement
With those qualities in mind, you need to create an onliness (only-ness) statement.

This statement identifies what makes you the ONLY one doing what you’re doing. A zag isn’t merely differentiation, but RADICAL differentiation.

Fill in the blanks for your organization…

“Our brand is the ONLY _____________ (name of business category)
that _____________ (your zag).”

Do you have a zag? Something that no other business in your category is doing?

The onliness statement provides framework for your zag. Once you’ve defined your point of differentiation, you have a decisional filter for all your company’s future decisions. By checking back against your statement you can quickly see whether any new decision will help or hurt, focus or unfocus, purify or modify your brand.

Here are two examples of potential onliness statements from the book:


Harley Davidson


WHAT: (the category)
The ONLY motorcycle manufacturer…

HOW: (point of differentiation)
…that makes big, loud motorcycles…

WHO: (audience segment)
…for macho guys (and macho “wannabees”)…

WHERE: (marketing geography)
…mostly in the United States…

WHY: (need state)
…who want to join a gang of cowboys…

WHEN: (underlying tend)
…in an era of decreasing personal freedom.


Hooters Restaurant Chain


WHAT: (the category)
The ONLY chain of restaurants…

HOW: (point of differentiation)
…that hires overtly sexy waitresses…

WHO: (audience segment)
…for young male customers…

WHERE: (marketing geography)
…in the United States…

WHY: (need state)
…who want to indulge their libidos…

WHEN: (underlying tend)
…in an era of strict political correctness.

Hopefully this piece has piqued your interest and has whet your appetite for cooking-up your own zag. Marty explains how to find, design, build and renew your zag (and much more) in the book.

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