Book review: 'Difference' by Bernadette Jiwa

Difference, Bernadette Jiwa.jpg

I’m excited about the times we're living in. I know that in many ways there's a lot to be scared of, but it seems to me that there's also a hell of a lot to be excited about, and to find hope and brilliance in. Much of that excitement, that brilliance, I believe stems from a collective step change in the human psyche. It's about truth, it's about living authentically, it's about real stuff that matters and it's about the human need to connect and belong.


So what does this have to do with a book about marketing? Everything. 


We're living in a special point in time where many of us enjoy lives where our basic needs are more than satisfied. Our collective human intelligence has advanced further up the hierarchy of needs pyramid at precisely the time that technology has advanced to the point of true integration into everyday life. This means that people are questioning more and demanding the satisfaction of deeper desires, such as meaning and purpose and integrity, in their lives. It also means that because of the accessibility of technology, never before has there been such an opportunity to realise these desires.


We want more meaning and purpose. We also have the ability to connect, collaborate, integrate and disseminate information like never before in order to inform our choices. And because the barriers to enter the marketplace have been greatly reduced by technologolical advancements, we also have more options available and a greater ability to make choices that reflect the things that matter to us.


It means that mass marketing is dying, if not, dead. We're not prepared to be treated like invisible numbers and demographic conglomerates anymore and it seems that we don't have to be. Doing work that matters, making choices that reflect our values, giving our loyalty to ethical and caring companies that make a difference is where we're headed, and 'Difference' encapsulates that thinking. Although it's a marketing method, the overarching message of this book is much broader and can be applied not only to all facets of a savvy business, but as a mediation and encouragement for us all to embrace the abundant opportunities to make choices that matter.


The concept of making yourself matter to your customers, of reinventing your business and staying sharply focused on what makes you different to your competition is not a new concept, but it’s the way ‘Difference’ tells the story that makes the difference. Firstly, Bernadette Jiwa is a great storyteller, so she’s a pleasure to read. She has a style that combines that inspirational values-approach to business combined with enough clarity and punch to avoid the waffle. In ‘Difference’, she manages to marry what matters on a human level to what works on a business level. Secondly, she doesn’t just stick with the theory and avoid the issue of how to actually put it into practice. Her engaging and succinct writing style is further enlivened by the very practical and applicable Difference Model and Difference Map.


The Difference Model is centred on empathy as the foundation for making things and developing ideas that actually matter to people. By understanding how people feel and what they care about, and therefore what they want, we can realise a great opportunity to build better, more sustainable businesses and ideas, and communicate in ways that people actually want to hear. The Difference Model provides a framework to begin this journey and the Difference Map is a visual shorthand way of brainstorming and representing your findings.


‘Difference’ also presents several inspiring case studies in the form of Difference Map samples. It’s here that this philosophy is really illustrated, this important step change not only in our ability, but our responsibility for creating work that matters. These are companies that know it's about showing up, about making the most of the choices available to us, about choosing the stories we want to tell and be a part of. It's about connecting authentically with the people who matter to us and our business. They are companies millions of people have shown their desire to support, emulate and connect with, to be a part of their story.


This is an inspiring and important little book that speaks to so much more than turning dated marketing approaches on their head, although it does that too. It asks us to be brave enough to consider the truth about what we really care about and what really matters. Bernadette Jiwa tells us the story of Difference and illustrates the tale with the stories of companies who are choosing to matter. But she also shows us a practical way of doing that, of identifying and expressing those differences in a way that will resonate with our clients and customers. This is a story I want to be a part of and one that I suspect we all do.


To find out more about 'Difference' and Bernadette Jiwa, you can find her at