What Makes You Unique? How to Stand Out in a Highly Commoditized Marketplace

2020 has reshaped the business landscape in both profound and subtle ways, bringing lots of opportunity for branding commodities. Consumers today have access to more and better information than ever before (and only limited access to retail stores), making nearly every purchase a conscious, carefully considered choice. Armed with the ability to comparison shop at the press of a button, consumers are forcing more and more brands to address the challenge of differentiation at an unprecedented moment for commerce. This can lead companies to hastily answer existential questions about their business, such as “How are we different from our competition?” or, “How can we continue to justify charging a premium when a cheaper alternative is available?”

Here are three key steps your brand must take to address the challenge of differentiation in a commoditized category:

  • Establish a compelling brand purpose
  • Enhance the customer journey across every touchpoint
  • Drive innovation in product form and packaging

Branding commodities requires having a strong purpose to stand behind—a powerful idea that consumers endorse and find tangible value in—so your audience will not look elsewhere. Brands must then activate their purpose to enhance every touchpoint along the customer journey, and drive innovation in product form and packaging. The data bears this out; according to a 2018 survey conducted by Accenture Strategy, nearly two-thirds (64%) of global consumers find brands that actively communicate their purpose more attractive than brands that don’t. Additionally, just over half (52%) of respondents stated that they are more likely to support brands that align with their personal values.

Of course, your product must be the ultimate articulation of your purpose. First impressions are important when branding commodities, but inspiring true brand loyalty means transcending consumer expectations around the commodity itself. The Association of National Advertisers reinforces this concept in its Brand Purpose Playbook: “Purpose can drive differentiation within the most commoditized categories and provide relevance to even highly skeptical consumers. It can sustain price premiums, increase market share and garner greater share of voice in a fragmented media landscape.”

bailey brand consulting commodity fiji blog

Water is one of the most commoditized resources on the planet, yet brands like FIJI have risen above the competition to become household names in part because they are able to deliver on a compelling brand purpose. FIJI’s About Us page reads: “By sharing water from Fiji's sustainable ancient artesian aquifer with the world and working to improve the lives and environment of its people, FIJI Water has embodied what it means to be Earth's Finest Water® since 1996.” FIJI demonstrates the power of purpose to drive their brand forward in a way that resonates with their audience and justifies the premium they charge—two-and-a-half times more than competitors such as Poland Springs.

With your purpose in place, next consider the customer experience at every step along the journey from initial discovery to purchase and end use. Identify and document every possible touchpoint at which the customer might engage with your brand, whether it’s an interaction on social media, at a tradeshow booth, on a sales call or on a store shelf. Mapping the customer journey across each of these touchpoints will highlight critical opportunities to communicate and reinforce your purpose.

bailey brand consulting unique brand disney commodity

Perhaps no organization understands this better than Disney. Families who book a trip to one of the company’s resorts are mailed a branded welcome package prior to their visit. The package includes RFID-enabled wristbands that eliminate the need to carry a credit card, park ticket or hotel room key, creating a seamless, “magical” experience for visitors across every touchpoint during their stay.

bailey brand consulting unique brand kleenex commodity

Many of today’s most well-known brands have emerged from heavily commoditized industries, some so successful that their names have become synonymous with the commodity itself (think Band-Aid, Xerox, Kleenex). Even these businesses must innovate in order to continue to stand out on shelf. For example, Kleenex has occasionally reimagined its iconic square tissue boxes for limited seasonal product runs, like its “Perfect Slice of Summer” campaign. These brightly colored, eye-catching packages demonstrate Kleenex’s commitment to continuously subvert their audience’s expectations, which is especially impressive for an almost universally recognized brand.

Uncertainty is a fact of life for businesses today. By establishing and acting in accordance with a foundational purpose, organizations stand the best chance of breaking through the clutter to make a genuine connection with consumers (for more on the importance of building trust with your audience, read our recent blog). As you consider how to address differentiation in an increasingly commoditized business environment, how will you leverage your purpose to activate your brand?

To learn more about this topic or to discuss an issue impacting your business, contact Bailey’s Vice President of Client Services, Jamie Gailewicz, at 610-818-3103 or click here to contact us via [email protected].


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