Science Gives Clues on How to Stand Out from the Pack

koeppel direct stand out of the crowd

Would you like to look more competent than the rest of the pack?

New research conducted by Harvard Business School says that sticking out in a distinct way can help you stand out from the pack. It’s no longer about fitting in, it’s actually about making your mark in unique ways. Even though humans are hardwired to conform and be part of a group, in society we’re drawn toward those that stand out.

While previous research focused on why people are drawn to branded items, until now very little has been discovered about what other people think of branded items being worn. In a series of studies published in the Journal of Consumer Research in February, Silvia Bellezza, a doctoral student, and two Harvard professors looked at what observers thought of people who decided to strike out on their own and in the workplace and in retail settings. Some of the work took place in a lab setting, while other studies were conducted in the community.

Being a little different…Most of the studies involved about 150 participants. They found that being a little different could benefit people in certain situations. Conforming to norms is easy and safe – but if people want to deviate, there are certain upsides, according to Ms. Bellezza.

For example, the studies showed that candidates in a business-plan competition who used their own custom PowerPoint presentations were evaluated as more likely to win than those that had standard backgrounds. Standing out from the crowd in the right way could significantly improve how you’re perceived.

Deliberate vs. by accident. However, the deviations have to be deliberate. Showing up with one black shoe and one red shoe (an obvious mistake) won’t have the same impact as being the only guy in the office with a red tie. While the latter may indicate you think outside of the box, the former could brand you as a flake.


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