5 Way To Stop Slipping Toward Commodity

Brands that receive investment find important ways to stay away from the commodity part of a market segment. 

They create new technology that improves performance, they develop special activities that add secondary value to users and they keep using resources to challenge themselves.

Commodities are stagnating like still water. They get milked like cash cows as they blend into the blur of average, typical products. Their dull and lifeless and purely functional. And their sales trajectory is often flat or downward. 

Of course, brands must spend investment wisely. 

There are many ways to fertilize investments so they keep producing fruit so brands must spend with intent. When brand managers or small business owners spend wisely on these five areas, they can get significant return on their investment. 

And over time, they put more distance between themselves and the commodities in their category.

Brands Need Energy:  A brand that slips toward commodity has no momentum. No one is talking about it and it is rarely top of mind to the trade or consumers. Without an infusion of juice – it withers on the vine.  This energy can come from lots of tactics but will be most successful if they come with a deep understanding of what the user really values. Like a Broadway actor and her audience, together they create more excitement than either will create alone.

Brands Need Simplification:   A brand that really understands a consumers journey, keeps working hard to make it easy to buy or easy to understand.  I recently used a GPS in a rental car and it was so complicated and overwhelming, that getting lost was preferred to having to stare at this nightmare design.  I craved that they would make this easy for me and instead they gave me bells, whistles and lollipops. They didn’t understand what was important to me – particularly in this rental situation. Commodities tend to be indifferent to design and streamlined thinking.

Brands Need “Only” Features:   Any brand that can claim it is the only brand that has X or does Y benefits from being distinctive (not just different). But that distinctiveness and “only” feature has to be important enough for customers to notice.  If I need a lightweight knapsack to carry stuff – giving me added pockets and features that make it heavier, defeats the purpose if it’s positioned as the lightweight sack. Alignment of purpose counts.  Make sure you find powerful ‘only’ features or you’ll just be creating a Swiss army knife when all I need is a scissor. Commodities rarely have ‘only’ features. They tend to just follow the crowd to the big fat middle.

Brands Need a Distinctive Voice:  If I walk into Starbucks or Wal-Mart or Target, I hear a voice from the brand. But there are plenty of retail experiences where the experience is dull and lifeless. A distinctive voice has a tone, a pace and a step that creates a unique experience. When I buy a wine, olive oil or chocolate, I look for queues on the package or online that helps me hear the brand and understand the people who bring it to life. The voice of a friendly customer service rep is inviting. An unhappy voice from that same company is off-putting and makes me want to hang up the phone.  Commodities tend to be mute or deaf or just plain disinterested. 

Brands Need Attitude:  There are so many products in so many categories, that it very hard to stand out from the crowd. But rich brands have attitude and they let it show. It is a bravado that announces it is in the house or they plant a firm flag in the ground.  They get noticed by allowing a real and genuine personality to emerge and they aren’t afraid to show an emotion or two. Commodities have little patience for personality because they are so transactional.  Buy this, buy that.

Being a commodity is the death knell to a brand. You need to distance yourself from the wasteland of generic goods and services. When I recently asked someone who needed some marketing advice, what they do, he told me he was an average, typical accountant. In his words, a commodity brand. 

Glad he called. 


Are you slipping into the world of average with your brand? Maybe you need some coaching on how to wisely invest to help bring your product back to life. Give me a call. Let's talk through Clarity

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