The Three Types of Companies: Biggest, Better, and Different

I want to share with you, I’ve found there are only three types of companies. Once you understand the three variations, you’ll be a better consumer, marketer, or leader.

I take a lot of briefings from companies, in fact, hundreds every year. I also meet with many different corporations who are our clients for longer term engagements and have found a clear pattern in just about every industry. In fact this doesn’t just apply to the brand, but also the specific products within a market. And deep down, when you look carefully, you’ll find this applies to siblings too.

The Three Types of Companies:

1) Biggest.
This company or product, will always make the claim they are the biggest, largest, have the most customers. You’ve heard of how McDonalds’ has served billions of Hamburgers, or how Microsoft has sold the most software licenses, or how Ford was the first auto manufacture, or Coke is the top beverage brand on the planet.. You’ll also know these companies as they’ll tout their rankings on Fortune 100, or financial growth. Often, these companies are the standard, and all others measure up to them, “We are the largest, the first, the wealthiest”. We often find these products fit the masses, but may lack in other areas such as specialization or variety.

2) Better.
This company or product, is locked in a second place position against Biggest. For example, you’ve heard of how Burger King offers variety of their menu, or how Dell offered the customized on the web products over 10 years ago, or how Toyota challenge big cards during the gas crises decades ago, or how Pepsi wants you to take their taste challenge. They will differentiate by making their products better than the competitors, by changing variety, pricing, or customization, “We’re better than the other guys, who can’t serve everyone’s needs”. We often find these companies to offer premium alternatives, suiting for more than mainstream appetite.

3) Different.
This company or product will distinctly position themselves as an alternative to the the first two by offering a complete different option. Perhaps you’ve tried In-N-Out Burger, or seen how Apple wants you to think different with their products, or how Mini wants you to drive their unique cars, or how 7up positioned themselves as the UnCola. They will attack the primary model of the first two, and suggest they are only for a certain type of buyer. “be different, stand out, and we’re only for distinguished tastes”. These companies have specific offerings, that buck the trend, and will go out of their way to stand apart.

A few rules of the road: It goes without saving that multiple companies and products can all fit in one category, we often see multiple companies claiming to be the top dog. And also we should expect to see companies traverse these three different categories, and all of that is normal.

Now that you know the three types of companies, you can start to be a better buyer, marketer, and leader. Know where they fit in the your selection process, and know where you fit between Biggest, Better, and Different.

  • Beat Huerlimann

    Less is more. I see two general types of Companies: Strong ones, that are focussed on earnings and marketing (like Banks) ore good ones, that are focused on value and reputation (like pharmaceuticals).

  • Your observation also fits with the way many companies go about benchmarking other firms:  they first ask who are the biggest and what makes them so; then they look to who getting noticed for being better and wonder how they can emulate that. Lastly they look at notable successes who are different.  Benchmarking as the reason to adopt new practices is often the hobby of companies that don’t have an internal logic for driving their own improvement.  Being like those who are biggest, better or different are all reasonable aspirations, as long as your decisions are guided by what is actually best suited for your own firm.

  • Marc, great observation on how others are seeing the space.  Glad it resonates.  Agree that companies are afflicted with 1) How can we stay #1, or 2) How do we beat #1, or the 3) How do we get chosen and get out of the rat race?

  • Marc, great observation on how others are seeing the space.  Glad it resonates.  Agree that companies are afflicted with 1) How can we stay #1, or 2) How do we beat #1, or the 3) How do we get chosen and get out of the rat race?

  • Thanks Beat.   

  • Thanks Beat.   

  • Nick Valente

    Best, Better and Different are all points of view, and maybe unnecessary labels. Apple owns a fraction of the PC market, but makes more profit per PC than its competitors. Depending on your yard stick you might consider them Best, Better AND different. The key is deciding what you’re going to be better or different with, and how it effects your main goal, which is usually profitability. Depending on your persepctive going in, and your end goal, one measure of different is another stockholders Best.

  • Nick Valente

    Best, Better and Different are all points of view, and maybe unnecessary labels. Apple owns a fraction of the PC market, but makes more profit per PC than its competitors. Depending on your yard stick you might consider them Best, Better AND different. The key is deciding what you’re going to be better or different with, and how it effects your main goal, which is usually profitability. Depending on your persepctive going in, and your end goal, one measure of different is another stockholders Best.

  • Nick Valente

    Best, Better and Different are all points of view, and maybe unnecessary labels. Apple owns a fraction of the PC market, but makes more profit per PC than its competitors. Depending on your yard stick you might consider them Best, Better AND different. The key is deciding what you’re going to be better or different with, and how it effects your main goal, which is usually profitability. Depending on your persepctive going in, and your end goal, one measure of different is another stockholders Best.

  • Nick good points on Apple, they continue to not fit into any molds of traditional anything.  Great strategic view. 

  • This has always been the case. What’s interesting is that in every markets you have a leader who has to stay relevant and be perceived as important is he wants to stay on top of its market. Then you’ve got the so-called challengers who are kind of also-ran companies offering either better prices or services ( these are your betters) and then you have the new-comers in the category. Those one have to gain a kind of legitimacy in order to be considered by the consumers ( you can’t enter the yogourt market orvdairy market without being healthy). So they have to deliver on the generic benefit of the category ( in order to be considered) while claiming an attribute or benefit which is absolutely different.
    That won’t change even with social media. What is changing is the way of achieving this. Let me explain.
    In the pas there was and still is a close and positive correlation between a brands position in the market and it’s spontaneous awareness. The most spontaneous known are #1 in the market to and the second are second and so on. There are exceptions but only a few. To day I’m absolutely convinced that share of market will correlate with share of conversations. The most talked about brands, the most engaging and collaborative ones will lead their market because that’s how they get into the mind of people. Sponatneous awereness reflects how improtant and relevant a brand is to an individual otherwise he would just skip it from his memory.
    I woild like to make a survey on this. Whe have the tools. I need a sponsor. Is anybody interested?

  • This has always been the case. What’s interesting is that in every markets you have a leader who has to stay relevant and be perceived as important is he wants to stay on top of its market. Then you’ve got the so-called challengers who are kind of also-ran companies offering either better prices or services ( these are your betters) and then you have the new-comers in the category. Those one have to gain a kind of legitimacy in order to be considered by the consumers ( you can’t enter the yogourt market orvdairy market without being healthy). So they have to deliver on the generic benefit of the category ( in order to be considered) while claiming an attribute or benefit which is absolutely different.
    That won’t change even with social media. What is changing is the way of achieving this. Let me explain.
    In the pas there was and still is a close and positive correlation between a brands position in the market and it’s spontaneous awareness. The most spontaneous known are #1 in the market to and the second are second and so on. There are exceptions but only a few. To day I’m absolutely convinced that share of market will correlate with share of conversations. The most talked about brands, the most engaging and collaborative ones will lead their market because that’s how they get into the mind of people. Sponatneous awereness reflects how improtant and relevant a brand is to an individual otherwise he would just skip it from his memory.
    I woild like to make a survey on this. Whe have the tools. I need a sponsor. Is anybody interested?

  • Awesome post. Really simple and powerful information. Thanks for Sharing.

    By
    Informatics Outsourcing(Offshore Web Research Solutions)

  • This is my first time I have visited this site. I discovered plenty of interesting stuff within your blog.

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  • According to me these all three companies depends on each other. Like first when new in business then one need to think like different. One should think that what kind of product they should own that people like them more. Now the next level is of better. In this one think that what should do better on their product that people start to like more and more and can get better benefit than the their competitors for same market. And then it comes to biggest that what changes a business can have so that none can even think to create beyond that. We can say for biggest is that one kind of monopoly for the long years. So this way one marketer should think for being the great marketer.

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  • hey really very interesting article. The concept of biggest, better and different is really amazing. ya you are right companies like ford, McD, and coca cola present themselves as the biggest company and this biggest label they have got because they have been present here for long time. But remember when they started their work, they started it by thinking do to something different. So the company which is different today you never know can be biggest tomorrow.

  • hey really very interesting article. The concept of biggest, better and different is really amazing. ya you are right companies like ford, McD, and coca cola present themselves as the biggest company and this biggest label they have got because they have been present here for long time. But remember when they started their work, they started it by thinking do to something different. So the company which is different today you never know can be biggest tomorrow.

  • You should check out Value Disciplines model of Treacy & Wiersema. But then, its been superceded by the unbundling of business work by John Hagel, et al.

  • Che Berm

    One thing that came to mind, after reading this blog, is that the success of each category depends greatly on the putting of a human element to their company. I would categorize Marriott as an example of the “Biggest” company type, yet JW Marriott’s blog has endeared Marriott to many who would otherwise view them as uncaring corporate and this has measurably increased their market share. The other two categories’ strategies are successful to a degree as well, yet again I believe that the trend to increase market share, when using social media marketing, is that of connecting with customers and it’s working. That should be the focus. Thank you for this article as I believe it contains some pertinent information for marketing professionals to ponder.

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  • Eyal Danon

    A very interesting topic. I agree with this article, every business’ success, contains of these 3 types of companies. Thanks for this!