Relevant Differentiation: How Glitter Went Viral

Being the best is great, but being the one-and-only is even better

Back Web Only Feb 18, 2015 By MaryJayne Zemer

A new Australian startup, Ship Your Enemies Glitter, launched in January and was instantaneously catapulted into the national spotlight. The sheer volume of interest and orders caused the company’s website to crash. Now that the site is prepared to handle demand, you can outsource petty acts of malice and revenge by asking the company to send a discreet, handwritten envelope filled with glitter that gets everywhere to whomever happens to provoke you.

What turned this angry glitter brand into an overnight sensation?

It was different. If someone else was already offering to vex your enemies with powdered glitter, the idea of booby-trapped mail wouldn’t have gone viral. Most companies want to be different but are too risk averse to really go for it. If you want to relevantly differentiate yourself from the competition, you’re going to actually have to be different — really different. Why aren’t more brands different? Because different is scary. Here’s the clincher: Different for the sake of being different hasn’t ever been popular. Meeting a real, relevant need in a way that no one else has— that’s relevant differentiation.

In the wise words of Jerry Garcia, “You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only one who does what you do.”

The good news: When you do your due diligence and thoroughly assess your competition, customers and market, you’ll have the evidence you need to reduce the inherent risk of being different.

It’s addressing a gap in the market. You might be wondering how much of a market there could possibly be for glitter bombing. Ship Your Enemies Glitter did $20,000 in sales and had 2.5 million site visits in the first four days, which paints a pretty clear picture. Shortly after launching, the company sold for a mere $85,000 when the founder was unprepared to handle the site’s growing sales. While the idea started out as a prank, positive feedback from media, Reddit contributors and the site’s customers turned the company from a fun idea into a viable business. The perfect practical joke that never goes too far, and customers are not likely to be found out. It beats the pants off a whoopee cushion.

Apple has a long-standing rule about relevant differentiation; if they can’t make a product that’s superior to every other product in its category, they don’t make it at all.

It has a clear and simple purpose. Ship Your Enemies Glitter has a simple purpose, that’s clear, memorable, and incredibly amusing to share on Facebook, over coffee or around the office. Is your brand’s purpose and promise to its customers that clear and simple?

There are a host of local companies in Sacramento with the courage to break from the herd, do something different and relevantly meet a real market need. Here’s a quick peek at a few of my favorites:

Vampire Penguin: The Gunther’s vs. Vic’s debate has been going on for decades. Rather than trying to one-up the local ice cream legends at their own game, Vampire Penguin offers something entirely different: In a city that sees more sunshine than snow, Vampire Penguin brings the cool, creamy novelty of flavored shaved snow to Sacramentans year round.

Silk Road Soda: Silk Road stands apart from your standard array of traditional western sodas. It’s is an Eastern-inspired vinegar soda designed to share and reflect the culture of the Mediterranean. Silk Road champions the drink local movement, is all organic and has a refreshingly unique perspective for a soda company.

Cookies & Milk: Just getting a pizza delivered after 11 p.m. can be tricky in Sacramento. In addition to being the only cookie delivery service in town, Cookie & Milk’s late night service relevantly differentiates it in the local market. With online ordering and free delivery, you can have fresh warm cookies with cold milk for sipping and dipping, without dirtying a dish or leaving the house.

Who do you know in the region who is doing things a bit differently? Let us know in the comments!


Nick Altman (not verified)February 18, 2015 - 3:06pm

Thank you so much for the write up MaryJayne. We love bringing cookies to Sacramento residents in the wee hours of the night! Awesome to be recognized for it.
Nick Altman
Cookies & Milk

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