As a brand, you can do everything right: employ the smartest people, use the most reliable tech, deliver the greatest value to customers. But if you're just trying to be better at what everyone else is doing, will your company really stand out?

Author and speaker Sally Hogshead doesn't think so.

"Better is the approval of other people according to a metric that they have established.... Better means you weren't good enough to begin with," she explains in the latest episode of the Marketing Smarts Live Show. "Better means that there is something wrong that you have to fix or optimize."

Unless you have the budget, resources, motivation, and network to compete, your best is never going to be good enough. There will always be someone better than you—a winner to your loser, a company making more money or getting more awards. It can be quite a slog.

What you need to create momentum, Sally insists, is to focus on what makes you unique.

"Identify a quality about yourself...that you know is absolutely true and is polarizing. That quality might be being meticulous, being emotional, being highly motivated. It could be being impractical or spending too much. Whatever the quality is, then think in what way is that an advantage. Then begin to do it on purpose."

* * *

If your marketing doesn't create controversy, you're doing something wrong, says brand guru Sally Hogshead. If you try to appeal to everyone, you'll appeal to no one.

"It's not working if it doesn't get hate mail," she insists.

Sally builds on her thesis with stories of companies that chose to "flip the flaw," or turn their difference into something positive. Reposition yourself, don't fix yourself. Identify what you already are and turn it into something valuable.

"It used to be enough to advertise," she explains. "It used to be enough to market. As long as people knew your logo, maybe your tagline, and they could find you on the grocery store shelf, you were fine. That's the world of better. When the world of different was scary."

And there's no going back to that world, so it's time to fascinate your audience with something different.

Dive into the Marketing Smarts Live Show video for more great insights:

Make sure you don't miss any future episodes: Subscribe to the Marketing Smarts Live Show on YouTube. And to catch up on all previous episodes, check out the full playlist on YouTube.


Episode Details, Guest Information, and Referenced Links

Episode No. 10

Guest's social media profiles:

MarketingProfs resources referenced in the show:

"In B2B News" article referenced in the show:

Full Transcript | Marketing Smarts Live Show Episode 10 | Different Is Better Than Better

This rough transcript is machine-generated. It's been only minimally edited by humans.

George B. Thomas All right, we are live. I'm excited because this marks the 10th episode. That's right. The 10th episode of this here show and on the 10th episode what we try to do is we try to be helpful, humble humans that bring you information. And today it is "different is better than better" with Sally Hogshead. That's the conversation that we're gonna have today.

Welcome to the Marketing Smarts Live show by MarketingProfs and the Marketing Smarts podcast, where we dive into B2B news, resources, valuable guest content, and much, much more each and every week.

Hey, if you're a B2B marketer looking for a place to learn, keep up to date and have some fun along the way, then you know I'm your guy. Grab a beverage and a notepad. Welcome to the show. Today I'm super excited to bring you episode 10 of The Marketing Smarts Live show on a topic that is near and dear to my heart.

This show comes out of what might be one of my favorite conversations I've ever had in interview form. That's right. Are you trying to not be different or are you embracing your difference? That is the question that I want to ask everybody that watches this video. Are you trying to not be different or are you embracing your difference?

Your difference, your superpower?

Now, today's topic is "different is better than better," and of course, whatever tips, tricks, strategies, or best practices hit my brain along our fantastic journey. Our guest clips today are brought to you by none other than Sally Hogshead, and she is amazing.

Now, drawing upon her branding expertise, Sally Hogshead created a method to identify how each person is able to captivate their listeners: the fascination advantage. And yes, that's probably registered or trademarked and all those things. It's the first communication assessment that measures how others perceive. After researching over 1 million professionals, her algorithm can pinpoint your most valuable differentiating traits. Her two most recent books, Fascinate, How to Make Your Brand Impossible to Resist, and How the World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value Through the Science of Fascination, were both New York Times bestsellers. Hey, I said she was awesome.

Sally is a member of the Speaker Hall of Fame, of World of Mouth Marketing Association Hall of Fame, and named a top brand guru. Sally's practical marketing system now lives inside of organizations such as IBM, Twitter, the YMCA, as well as thousands of small to medium-sized businesses. Buckle up. This is gonna be a good one. Remember, the clips of Sally today are pulled from the full Marketing Smarts podcast episode, and if you wanna listen to the full interview with Sally, make sure to tune in to the Marketing Smarts podcast link to the full show. It'll be in the description below after the live show ends. That's right, all the right links and all the right places at just the right time. Also, thanks to Mountain and Terminus for sponsoring the original podcast episode. It is a two-part episode. Today we're gonna pull clips from both to kind of condense it down, but just know this is a winner. Also, just know that we are going to blow your mind. At least I think so. I mean, honestly, this conversation was great. Now when I got the opportunity to interview Sally, it was coming off the end of last year's B2B Forum event where Sally did a keynote on this specific topic.

Now, as I watched her keynote, my brain flooded with tons of questions. I just knew I needed to ask Sally a bunch of questions. And so for me that equals, when I think of content creation, it's interview time.

I wanted to ask her why in the world she thought that different is better than better. Why is different better than better? I want you to stop and think about that for yourself.

If you think about the things that make you different and your journey to maybe always trying to be better, why is leaning into different better than better anyway? That's exactly what I asked Sally for our first question, and this is what she had to say.

Sally Hogshead: Well, let me ask you, George, were, were you ever told when you were growing up that there was something about you that was different?

George B. Thomas Yeah. In a good way and probably a bad way, but yes, absolutely. I have my differences.

Sally Hogshead: One of the beautiful things about evaluating people according to better is that better is a scorecard. It's really easy to show incremental improvement. And so everybody wants to stand straighter in the line.

They wanna get not just the A, they wanna get the A-plus, they wanna incrementally improve. And the same with brands. Brands get into a trap or they look at the competition and they think if I could be just a little bit cheaper, a little bit fancier, a little bit bigger. Better. And the problem is that the world has starting to a point that it's extraordinarily difficult and expensive to outspend your competition. If you don't have the biggest budget and the greatest awareness, there's no way you can win in a marketplace in which you're being evaluated according to better.

But the good news is that if you don't have the biggest budget, you don't have the greatest awareness, if you as an individual are not the most famous with the most awards and the greatest resume... That's not a disadvantage, that's an advantage because it allows you to focus on attributes that your competition isn't.

George B. Thomas Focus on what you are and what your competition isn't. That is a tweetable and maybe a notable thought for sure, but it only led me to a couple questions that immediately hit my cranium.

That's right. It's just how it works. Like I will hear something and boop, boop, boop... there will be additional questions. So that's when I asked Sally, why is focusing on better a quick way to the loser circle, and how can we be different with purpose? Think about that. Not only different for different's sake, but different with a purpose, and this is what Sally had to say about those two questions.

Sally Hogshead: There are a lot of qualities when you were growing up that you were probably told they were flaws, they were imperfections. We evaluate children according to strengths and, what's the opposite of strengths, weaknesses. In a world of strengths, there's only one winner, and that person is the best, everybody else is an also. It's just a matter of where you are standing in line behind the person who is best.

If we take a cue from something that we know about marketing, we have to differentiate. If we take that to the extreme and see we will never be able to outdo somebody else at their own game, I can't out-George you, I can't out-Seth-Godin Seth Godin. In the same way, if we can identify what exactly are those qualities that are different not just for the sake of being different, but they're different because they're intensely valuable to a specific target audience.

Let's take a team example during COVID. People who had a great sense of humor sitting around the status room table pre-COVID had a competitive advantage in that they could engage and they could people to remember through humor. Then when we had to quarantine, humor had a completely different role. It wasn't enough just to be funny. You have to be able to take that attribute about yourself and pivot it. With humor, a way to pivot that is you can see something from a different perspective. Humor is about irony and friction.

If you're able to take a look at a situation and bring a fresh perspective on it, that's a way that you can take a quality that makes you different and valuable in one circumstance that becomes a completely different attribute in a different circumstance for a different target audience.


George B. Thomas Can you take your difference and turn it into your superpower in different situations and for different audiences in your life? I'm gonna ask that again. Can you take your differences and turn it into your superpower in different situations and for different audiences in your life?

I sure think. But the real question is, Do you, what are your thoughts so far about this topic? Let us know by using the hashtag #mpb2b. Now we'll get back to Sally and her thoughts on different is better than better, but I have to ask, Are you part of the Marketing Pro community? Free community? By the way, if not, become part of the marketing process community by heading over to

Now it's time for In the B2B News, where we talk about breaking B2B news or really important tips we find on the Google News tab related to you and your B2B business. A fun little side note, this week when I searched B2B marketing on the news tab of Google News tab of Google, the first was our latest interview with Pam Didner, so make sure you check that Bad Boy out. It'll be a future live show, but the podcast episode is live now. However, today's In the News section is actually How to Use Buyer Reviews in B2B Marketing by Christina Kearney. It comes to us from the plethora of MarketingProfs articles.

That's right. It was in that top section of B2B marketing in the Google News tab. Now, this one jumped off the page to me because I truly believe when we focus on being different, your audience will leave reviews and testimonials at a faster pace. But how can you then leverage those reviews to their maximum advantage for your ROI?

That's where this useful article comes into play, you'll learn five ways to use your buyer reviews in your B2B marketing moving forward. And I have to ask, Are you using your reviews currently in the right ways? Hey, the link will be in the description once this live show is over. That's right, all the right links in all the right places at just the right time.

So let's get back to Sally and her Marketing Smarts podcast episode. Now, I wanted to dig in deeper into this conversation of different and better. I wanted to know just a couple of things. Just a couple of things, and that is: what should we be thinking of, and what should we be leveraging? That's right. When you think about this conversation of different and better breaking the two apart, what should we be thinking of and what should we be leveraging and here? Ladies and gentlemen, here is what Sally had to say about those things.

Sally Hogshead: Just being the best is demoralizing because it's automatically putting the control in somebody outside of you because you're the best as evaluated by them. That's why it's so brittle. You come up with a shiny technology, I'll come up with a shinier one. You come up with a price cut, I'm going to price cut you lower. It's always on a straight linear line going up and down. Think of it like, it's a ladder going up. Different, on the other hand, is not as predictable. It's a curvy horizontal line, if you can imagine. Your success is not guaranteed, but no longer is your success guaranteed with better.

When we go on this journey of different and we begin looking at ourselves and we think what are the most strategically polarizing things about ourselves... For me, I have a huge competitive disadvantage; my last name is Hogshead. Think about what that was like growing up on the playground. Nobody would ask for that. As my mom told me, it's the thing about our name that makes it different that will one day make you love it. And it's true. There are certain things about having a polarizing brand like the last name Hogshead that even when I got married, I kept my last name. Like many things that are highly differentiated, it's memorable, it's ownable, and it's easy to build an identity around that.

George B. Thomas Did you hear Sally say polarizing, but in a good way?

When you have something that's different? And I love exactly how Sally said this. I mean, she said it perfectly it's ownable, it's memorable, and it's easy to build an identity around. Are you able to take your difference and own it, make it memorable, and build an identity around it? That's the question that you should be asking yourself right now.

I hope that you see how focusing on being better is not a viable solution in the world we live in today. Sure, you wanna try to always get better, but getting better in the lane of also leveraging your difference will put you in a magical place. Again, we'll get back to Sally in a few minutes where we dive into the questions centered around fixing and optimized versus open-ended opportunities.

We also get Sally to share a great example with us around this conversation. But first, it's time for some dope B2B learnings from the vault of MarketingProfs articles. That's right. It's time to dig into the treasure trove of valuable information and pull out two pieces of gold to help you be a better B2B marketer.

Article one this week is, Will Sears Be More Like Target Than Kmart by Kathy Halligan. Yep. You guessed. As my brain often works when I'm deep in thinking of different versus better, I also tie it to different versus the same, and so this article title screamed the Sea of Sameness, jumped out to me. Take a gander and see what tips you can glean for your own B2B marketing.

Article two for this week's episode is Back to Me: Why You Should Talk About Yourself by Claudia Temple. I'll let you read the full article, but let me just dive into a small section of this to whet your appetite. Visitors are often more curious about the folks behind the site rather than the technology or the mission. Why? Because people do business with other people. Human to human, not companies, corporations, or websites. Buying a CD or umbrella from a website can save the customer time. And aggravation. More often than not, we hope. But the real relationship is built between the customer and his or her perception of who is handling the transaction at their or your end.

Every time you deliver at a customer touchpoint, trust grows. Let me repeat that. Every time you deliver at a customer touchpoint, trust grows and the likelihood of a loyal relationship increases. keywords there, trust and loyal relationships, that as marketers, as B2B marketers, what we could be is, is what we could be focusing on now. Learn more after the broadcast, and to read both articles in full head to the links located in the description below. Yes, I'm gonna say it maybe for the last time today. All the right links in all the right places. At just the right time.

All right. You know what you wanna do? You wanna get back to Sally? So back to Sally. Let's dive back into the conversation of different and better as well as learn about a great example of how you can leverage your difference to not only be different, but different with a purpose.

Sally shares a great branding example where a product pivoted in their difference. And here's what Sally had to share. I, I love this. Just to be honest with you all.

Sally Hogshead: Well, a n easy way to think about it is no kid ever came home crying from school saying, "Mommy, the kids are teasing me, they say I'm better." Better is the approval of other people according to a metric that they have established. It's like the most improved award. Better means you weren't good enough to begin with. Better means that there is something wrong that you have to fix or optimize. Different, on the other hand, gives you an open-ended opportunity to explore the different options. Instead of having this mine-slogging, ditch-digging, gradual improvement, you have quantum leaps.

This is why different is a risk. You can't be different just to be different. You have to identify what's the situation, a target audience, a purpose or an unfulfilled need that you can solve with your point of difference. For example, let's borrow something from branding. When electricity was invented and people stopped using their coal stoves, there was a product that was in danger of becoming irrelevant.

The product cleans the soot off of the walls, and it had a very distinctive scent. When there was no more soot on the walls, there was no more of this product. The product pivoted and reinvented with a totally different target audience without changing the product. That product became Play-Doh. Play-Doh started as a household cleaning agent. They kept the scent the exact same. When their market opportunity dried up because nobody had soot, then positioning it as a child's toy, which ironically gets stuck in the carpets, is one way of saying don't change who you are.

George B. Thomas O M G, you have to become more of who you are. You don't have to change, you don't have to change people. You just have to become more of who you are. OK, I don't know about you, but I am totally down for that journey. Totally down for that journey. And maybe it's because I have the two-part series under my belt or just because that's how I'm built. But are you wondering, just like me, How can I become more of who I am? More of who you are? I hope so, because that's what I asked next. Yeah. I mean, I really leaned into this and guess what Sally answered, and let's see what she had to say.

Sally Hogshead: The first part is to identify a difference that is highly differentiated and polarizing in certain situations that you may have been told growing up that it was something that you needed to fix. Second, identify how that is an advantage. For a lot of people in marketing, like me, I'm intensely creative. That means I'm able to come up with ideas really quickly, but I have difficulty with structure, I have difficulty with intricate directions, and staying on task over time. It's up to me to know, as a creative thinker, I shouldn't put myself in situations in which I'm going to be evaluated according to my ability to simply replicate and crank out the same thing, identical, over and over again. I could do it, but it would be exhausting, it would feel like quicksand. Instead, what I need to do is to find what are the situations and people in which creativity is not only a benefit but is absolutely essential. Then I have to take that creativity and make sure that I am responsible for over delivering in that one area, because that's how I'm going to give value.

George B. Thomas Oh, and it's all about giving value, and all of those sound like great ways to get started.

Now, we're gonna get some words of wisdom from Sally here in a few minutes, but right now it's time to turn the spotlight on you, the MarketingProfs community--you know, the people that I love, why I do this. Yep. It's time for From the B2B community. We searched far and wide in the hashtag MPB2B universe to find amazing information and conversations to bring to the masses. That's you. So first. Make sure you're using the stinking hashtag. And second, make sure you have fun and add value to the community.

Then we'll spotlight you or your crew on the show. This week, it's Katie Martel or @katiemartel on Twitter. Yes, I was on the Twitters for this one. Her tweet that caught my eye was No Marketer means to exclude anyone in our target audience. #accessibility is part of being inclusive. I teamed up with @PerkinsAccess and @MarketingProfs #mpb2b.

There it is to share, five ways to make your #marketing more accessible. Now watch our keynote on demand, and of course, the link is in the show notes that you can watch after this live broadcast is over. And thank you Katie Martel for using the hashtag. Hey, are you gonna be the next to get the spotlight?

Remember community. Use that hashtag #mpB2B on Facebook, LinkedIn, and/or Twitter, and get the light shined on your awesomeness in the next episode or a future episode of the Marketing Smarts Live Show. Pro tip, it won't hurt if you tag me into your post as well. And I'm @GeorgeBThomas on LinkedIn and Twitter.

So I love to end the podcast and I love to kind of wrap up these live shows with some words of wisdom. Look, we've all gone through a lot. We've all helped people through those types of journeys, and so words of wisdom can really impact and give us kind of next steps. So we're gonna kick it back to Sally and some awesome words of wisdom around this topic of different is better than better.

Sally Hogshead:

The greatest way to empower somebody is to help them identify who they already are and then reward them for what they're doing. The greatest way to kill somebody's spirit is to show them what they're doing wrong and tell them how to fix it. So remember this: You don't have to change anything. You are not perfect for everything. You are not perfect for everyone. But you are extraordinary at the right time with the right people, and that is how to reach your ideal potential by being different.

George B. Thomas Can I get an amen on that? The greatest way to empower somebody is to help them identify who they already are and reward them for what they're doing, right?

I have to ask, are you empowering yourself? Are you empowering others? Are you reaching your ideal potential by being different? Have you enjoyed today's journey? Let us know. Use that hashtag #mPb2b. Head to the description below. Click on the link in the full Marketing Smarts Podcast with Sally Hogshead, and keep on learning more about how to reach your full potential.

Remember, these were just a few clips from the original Marketing Smarts Podcast interview that, by the way, was sponsored by Mountain and Terminus. If you got value of today's show, hit that. Better yet, share it with a friend and to keep learning more, hit that subscribe or watch additional MarketingProfs videos or articles depending on where you are.

Or go tune in to the original Marketing Smarts podcast episodes on your favorite podcast app. Don't forget to become part of the MarketingProfs community by heading over to Don't forget to check out the B2B forum with 49 speakers. Bunch of keynotes. I'll be on stage. A bunch of shenanigans.

And as always, as I close this out and land a plane, remember to be a happy, helpful, humble B2B marketing human. And we'll see you on the next episode of the Marketing Smarts live show next week. Enjoy everybody. It's been my pleasure.

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image of George B. Thomas

George B. Thomas is a marketer, video Jedi, and HubSpot certified trainer with 25+ years of sales and marketing experience. George is owner and HubSpot Helper at He has a record-breaking 38 HubSpot sales, marketing, service, CRM, and CMS certifications. George harnesses his expertise in graphic design, Web development, video editing, social media marketing, and inbound marketing to partner with, teach, and develop solutions for companies looking to develop their businesses and increase their revenue.

LinkedIn: George B. Thomas

Twitter: @GeorgeBThomas