The Fear of Being Different

August 31, 2019

I’ve worked with smaller organizations for most of my marketing career, and noticed an interesting phenomenon crop up from time to time. Perhaps by identifying it, we can generate discussion or even take away its power.

I’m talking about fear.

The Tough, Risky Road

Businesses want to make money and to make money, companies realize they need to stand out from their competitors. To stand out, a business, of course, needs to be different.

Now, go back to your high school days. Being different from the rest of your classmates carried significant challenges. It’s tough to be different! Your experience was tougher than for those that fit in. You were odd, and so that attracted all sorts of unsavoury experiences. Being different is risky. If you stood out you were more likely to be stuffed in a locker or “de-panted” in the hallway. (**shudder, push bad memories down)

But let’s get back to fear. Sometimes the risk is too significant, or the experience of being different is “too hard.” Fitting in is a viable option to make it all go away, isn’t it?

When we first engage with a client, they usually say “We’re different!” They do things differently from their competitors. They have a unique culture or perspective on their industry. And I believe them. We get started with the work, finding ways to really stand out and make a statement.

Then their fears start to kick in.

Those fears are things like – “this is going to be too expensive,” “the partners will not go for it,” or “we need to rush this” or finally, “I don’t like this, and I don’t think anyone else will like this either.”

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Photo by Edu Carvalho from Pexels

“Yes, you are different. And it’s going to get tough.​”

Working So Hard to Fit in

To mitigate those fears, we create a “watered down” solution, something that is more palatable – cheaper, faster, or more generic. We substitute the ingredients that made them different in the first place, with generic words, visuals, and activities. Now they fit in.
What is the solution to all this? Well, it’s up to me (us, marketing people) to acknowledge those fears. Before we work together, I need to know what troubles you – then let’s see if we can come up with a plan to deal with those fears when they come up.


Yes, you are different.


And it’s going to be tough, and it’s going to be risky.

Find Something Interesting?

Through open conversation and informal brainstorming, we can all take something valuable away from new ideas and trends. We’d be happy to discuss what we’ve written here today and get your thoughts. We want to know what you think.

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