Don’t Be a Commodity

Stand out from the crowd.

Wendy Ruyle 6.30.2015


Branding is one way to avoid commodity status. But it’s not just lipstick on a hog. Part of the branding process is to uncover what makes you different, better, and more relevant to your customers. Here are some tips on standing out from the crowd.

Why stand out?

Any product or service can be seen as a commodity. You might think you have a specialized business but if someone offers the same thing to your customer and they can’t tell the difference in quality, you will be competing on price and price alone. That’s a losing game. On the other hand, any business can stand out from a commodity market if they figure out what makes them unique.

I’m choosy about certain products I buy that might be considered commodities. Toilet paper, for example. All brands do the same job, right? Wrong. I only buy Costco’s Kirkland brand for several reasons: it isn’t too linty, they still make it in a full width roll (Check those name brands, they’re about an inch narrower!), I can buy it in bulk, and I appreciate Costco’s business practices. I’m brand loyal because this product has the unique qualities I’m looking for in a product and a business. While it is a low cost option, I would still buy it even if it wasn’t because of it’s other strengths.

Determine your strengths

If you want to stand out, you need to determine what your strengths are as a business. Start by listing out all of your offerings—what you provide to your customers. Include any products and services along with how they are delivered.

Now list out your competitors. Not only the businesses that do exactly what you do but also the organizations that are competing for your customers’ attention. So, if your business is in the entertainment world, you need to look at all other entertainment options: TV, movies, gaming, recorded music, live music, theater, dining, entertaining at home, etc.

Look at each of your competitors and identify a few things you do better or in a different way: more personal service, more environmentally friendly, your product lasts longer, your product makes life easier, etc. Do this for each competitor and make sure you can back it up with facts. You’ll start to see where you consistently differentiate from the crowd.

Then, identify your audiences. Who wants your product? Who’s interested in your service? What is important to them? What can you offer to them specifically that no one else can?

Use these exercises to see where your strengths intersect with your audiences in relevant ways. What do you do best and who’s interested? Now you’ve determined your niche.

Communicate your niche

Once you’ve determined what makes you different you need to communicate it to your audience, develop a message platform around your strengths, and make sure it is used as the basis for written, digital, and face-to-face communications with your customers.

A message platform should include your brand attributes; some statements about who you are, what you do, and why you exist; and the essence of your brand (how you are different, better, relevant). These elements are a starting point for building a brand language toolkit including elevator speeches, signoff language, social media descriptors, market segment messages, headlines, a call to action, and more.

A consistent visual system and meaningful touchpoints will give your employees the tools to back up your messages. Make sure they are trained on how to use them and why it is important.

Plan out your communications with a content calendar to map out when and in what channels your messages are sent. This will increase the consistency of your brand, which communicates quality, which further helps to raise you out of the commodity market.

Figure out what’s special about you and shout it from the rooftops. Your people will find you and you won’t be just another face in the crowd

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