Being different is important if you want to be noticed. You don’t want to be too different though, because then you’re into weird territory. The trick, it seems, is to be just so different that you’re outside the norm, but not so different that you’re frightening (think Lady Gaga vs. Marilyn Manson). You want to be just different enough.
Let’s take a look at the most popular video on YouTube today. Not a perfect example of popularity, but not a bad one either. As you probably know, that video is Justin Bieber’s Baby with over 7.5 million views.
There are lots of ways to explain the success of that video. First of all, it’s a pop music video, which means its soundtrack had been pumped into every corner of the world before the video was ever even made. Bieber was also discovered on YouTube, so there’s something to be said for his existing following on the site fueling Baby’s popularity. However, there’s something pretty unique to this video aswell.
When it came out, it was something new. No one had seriously spoken about tween romance in a pop video; previously, that topic had been relegated to cartoons, tween novels (Sweet Valley High, anyone?) and other trivial productions. Bieber’s video is a more personal and serious exploration of the subject. It connects with its audience and treats them like mature individuals. In other words, it’s just different enough from the normal treatment.
Now let’s look at the incredible success of Korean rapper PSY’s “Gangnam Style.” It’s different, but not so different that we don’t recognize it. The same song could have been performed by almost any other pop artist (with different lyrics of course), but PSY’s unique dancing and style make it just different enough to be a sensation: a ten million view per day sensation.
The moral of the story is that to stand out you should be different, but not unrecognizable. You have got to be strange, but approachable. Most of all, you must be unexpected – just not completely out of left field.