Skittles once staged a broadway musical instead of advertising during the Super Bowl. An e-commerce company renamed a town in Oregon for $110,000 and some small favors. That company sold to eBay for $340 million. Oh, and Ikea encouraged women to pee on their ad. It was a free pregnancy test and a coupon!

Thinking different is a specific discipline. Being different is an entire world apart.

Campaign titled The Other Prostate Check created for the brand Prost8. Image source: Ads of the World

Brainstorming is a fun activity. You come up with all kinds of outlandish ideas for your brand and products. It’s exciting to sit in meetings and a pace rooms talking and thinking through concepts.

If you’re lucky, you land on something brilliant. The ad above is to raise awareness around less invasive forms of prostate cancer screening. The campaign features a series of armpits. It feels NSFW but it’s not. Many men avoid these traditional screenings, and Prost8 is providing them another way with a cheeky illustration.

Unfortunately, the gap between our ideas and their execution can be miles apart. Often, this is for good reason. Ideas can be cost prohibitive, unfeasible, not on-brand, and controversial. However, the problem still remains. Brands want to differentiate themselves and their products from the competition.

Thinking different requires two important things: 1) An imagination and, 2) an ability to ignore the competition. Understand, you’re competing for your customer’s attention; short and spread thin. If you have in-depth knowledge of your customer, you’ll be able to let your imagine run wild.

While thinking up great ideas is difficult, I think follow-through is equally challenging. It’s easy to think, we have the idea and budget, now all we have to do is produce the thing. While seemingly straightforward, making a bold idea into reality creates all kinds of obstacles. Business leaders may change course to avoid risk or controversy. Too many cooks in the kitchen can water down the creative. Production may not be supported with an appropriate budget for the project scope. Lots can happen.

Early stage startups have a big opportunity. When you’re small, agile, and unknown, risks take on a different character. Here’s a giant reminder in case you’re trying to build something special and different. Don’t just think differently, be different. Remind yourself that you’re not competing with other brands, you’re competing for your customer’s attention.

You don’t need to take baseless risks putting your company in jeopardy. You do need to have a playful spirit and lean into the fact that we all have short memories. Whether it’s a nationwide ad campaign, or something much smaller, don’t be afraid to make your ideas reality. When there’s a chance to do something bold, just do it.