From Mini Cooper to twitter: Harvard’s Youngme Moon says “Be Different”

“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel

This is the second in my series of blog posts from the Inbound Marketing Summit which I recently attended in Boston. I had the privilege of hearing some of the world’s marketing thought leaders including Youngme Moon, chair of the Harvard M.B.A. program and author of the book, Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd. Here is a video that beautifully sums up her philosophy.

Youngme told those in attendance that in order to be different we must learn to say “yes” when others say “no.” She used both Ikea and Mini Cooper as case studies showing examples from the hilarious Mini Cooper ad campaign. She said at a time when Americans were all driving gas guzzling SUV’s, Mini Cooper came on the scene and flaunted its tininess. She provided an interesting twist on the age-old advice to listen to your customers. “Customers will tell you how to improve, not how to be different,: she said. “They look at what’s offered by your competitors. If you want to be different you must resist the temptation to over-listen to your customers.” Citing twitter as a “different” example she asked who would have thought a 140 character limit would become such a popular social media platform? “Different and crazy can look the same at first. To be different is to be alone.” She concluded by urging us all to be passionate in business because, “passion is contagious.”


  • Jeff Brunson says:

    Different in a way that makes a difference … I love that. And yes, passion is contagious. David Whyte reminds us that the very part of us that feeds creativity is the passion that is required to be checked at the door. The ones who are changing this rule are changing the world.

  • Sue Painter says:

    Thanks so much for turning me on to a woman who is obviously a thought leader. It’s a brilliant way to market a book (the video) and I’m intrigued enough to download a sample of it to my Kindle. Love “new and different” as my life has been all about that.

    • maryellen says:

      Sue, we’re so caught up with it that my women’s leadership salon plans to read it and discuss it next month. I agree that the video was an excellent way to tell the story.

  • Rebecca Henderson says:

    What a video! Thank you for sharing it; I’m looking forward to the book arriving tomorrow!

  • Debbie Harley says:

    Love the video and the message. Can’t wait to continue this discussion with my students.
    I want them to understand that they have to be “different” – that their education has to be “different” – that their lives are going to be “different.”

    And I want to be that”different” educator, mentor and leadership coach.

  • Mary Ellen –
    I’ve read YoungMe’s book and really enjoyed it. I thought she provided great examples of big brands who really went out on a limb and risked being different.

    However, I thought the book fell significantly short of figuring out the “how to be different” for those wanting to try this. How many times can companies risk failing at this before they get it right?

    • maryellen says:

      Thanks for your insight Maria. My book club has this as our next assignment so I’ll let you know what I think after I read it. I can tell you that Youngme Moon was a fantastic and captivating speaker!

  • Being different is all about being authentically you and embracing your own creativity and quirkiness–even in business. If you think about it, if you do those things, you can’t help but be different. Some of us are just more naturally deviant than others I guess. Perhaps, that’s why I love helping entrepreneurs build their businesses around their unique GIFTS.

  • Kristina Shands says:

    Love the video and can’t wait to read the book. And my new favorite quote is “different and crazy can look that same at first.” So true.

  • Bill Painter says:

    Being different just to be different is what gets everyone looking the same. It is reminencent of when all the non-conformist wore the same outfit. It really means you are being authentic and that will shine through.
    Thanks for sharing the video. Really neat graphics.

  • I LOVE this statement “If you want to be different you must resist the temptation to over-listen to your customers” it’s like Henry Ford said, “If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

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