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Think Better, not Think Different

Written by on October 6, 2011

On October 5, 2011, Steve Jobs passed away and marked the end of an era. He was truly one of the greatest people around, and he constantly changed the way we looked at the world. But there is one thing many people miss, which I believe is the main reason Steve was able to turn Apple into what it is today. Steve's vision was:

I want to be much better. I don't care about being different.

We all remember the amazing "Think Different" campaign. It was a masterpiece of marketing, speaking directly to the Mac advocates. I remember when I received a press CD with it back in 1997. I watched it about one hundred times. It was brilliant.

This is what it is all about ...be different. Don't get stuck in the status quo ...stand out, move forward!

Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify and vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

And ...It was wrong!

The think different campaign encapsulated what we believed we wanted, but it was the wrong strategy. One of the first things Steve did when he returned to Apple was to remove the "think different" culture and replace with a "think better" culture.

Steve said this at the 1997 Apple WWDC conference:

I don't think it's good that Apple's perceived as different. I think it's important that Apple's perceived as *much better*. And, in fact, if being different is essential to doing that then we have to do that. But if we could be much better without being different then that would be fine with me.
I want to be much better. I don't care about being different. We'll have to be different in some ways to be much better, but that's the prize--wouldn't you agree?

The problem is that many companies think that the key to success is differentiation. We see this today when companies like Lenovo creates a slew of tablets. Each is different ...but are they better?

Being different is not what you want. Being different is a side effect of being better. What you want to focus on is to be better.

This is what drives Apple. This is what really made them successful. The iPod was created to be a better music player ...everyone else were trying create different MP3 players.

The iPhone was a designed to be a better phone + mini tablet, while all other phone manufacturers were focusing on creating a diverse market.

The Macbook Air is designed to be a better netbook ...any other brand is just trying to be different.

The Magic mouse is a better mouse, not a different mouse.

The reason why Apple has dropped hardware (like the floppy drive and later the DVD drive) was because it wasn't better.

If I were to point to one thing that Steve did for Apple, it is was this: He made it better, not different.

It is the same for you

You need to focus on the same thing. Take the struggling newspapers. Most of them are trying to differentiate themselves from their competitors. In print they, focus on the format and paper. Who cares?

You need to be a better newspaper. If being better means you have to do something differently, then that's great. As Steve said:

We'll have to be different in some ways to be much better, but that's the prize

But the reason why you change is to be better.

It is same for brands engaging on Facebook or Twitter. You don't want to focus on doing something differently from your competitors. You want to focus on being better.

Create value!

Steve, you will be greatly missed!

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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