Most business owners understand the advantages of being different from their competitors, and they aim to be unique in some way. Some businesses target typical, mass-market customers and differentiate their businesses by charging less (or more) or offering superior customer service. Others, to be unique, focus on specialty products or services meant for afficianados.
If you’re starting a new business, which should you do? Let’s say you’ve been working in a pasta shop and want to run your own business. You can offer the usual products but differentiate based on your business hours or your prices. Or you can make and sell nothing but gnocchi, a specialty product for connoisseurs.
Seth Godin calls this Passion vs. Pop. A “passion” business is based on a highly specialized niche, whereas the “pop” business offers what is popular with many people . He uses a dentistry example: “Should you be the most expensive, best trained, most extreme dentist in the world, catering to the edge of the passion market, or perhaps develop a chain of $19 five-minute whitening shops for the outer edge of the pop market?” Godin says that buyers fall into two categories: Pop buyers and Passion buyers. Passion buyers are the ones who “love microbeers and haute couture and Civil War memorabilia.”
There is a danger is being only different enough that you appeal to less of the Pop market but not different enough to catch the Passion market. He says you need to choose one or the other and avoid trying to be between the two. “Every day, millions of businesses get stuck in that gap. They either move to the right [a visual in his post shows Pop on the right side] in search of the masses or move to the left in search of authenticity, but they compromise. And they get stuck with neither.”