Some people think that many commodities are too “common” to be concerned about going to all of the “trouble” in creating a brand. They believe it’s only about sales. Brand has no effect on their product or service. Many point to good sales numbers, growth in their sales teams and all seems good. They believe in the motto, “numbers don’t lie.”
What this way of thinking doesn’t take into account is, not what they are losing, but what they are leaving on the table, cash and market position. Let me use two examples to illustrate my point.
Commodity – oranges: Up until recently, oranges are oranges. The closest thing to a brand was the Florida Orange Growers in convincing America the best oranges comes from Florida, but even this effort still kept oranges as a commodity for the most part. Then in 1996, Berne Evans launched CUTIES. He took brand tactics that was once reserved for consumer goods and applied it to a commodity. Now CUTIES means mandarin oranges just as Kleenex means facial tissue. According to industry insiders, no other produce or company has done this and now has a generation (my kids) asking for Cuties, not oranges, mandarin or any other kind orange fruit. They spent over $20mil in branding and marketing the name, not just “they have great tasting oranges”.
Side note: Mr. Evans has a track record on turning commodities into power brands. He’s the mastermind behind Fiji Water and POM Wonderful juice.
Commodity – coffee: By now most everyone knows the story of Howard Shultz taking a commodity that was cheap or even free and turning their commodity coffee company into a $100billion enterprise. Yes, they do have their own process in picking the right beans, rosting and drink concoctions, but coffee is still traded as a commodity on the Mercantile Exchange. Creating a great, strong brand from the outset, Howard Shultz has elevated his company beyond the commodity of what they sell.
These, and many other examples, make strong cases that even commodities are worth creating a great brand. It’s not about what you will lose, but what you are leaving on the table. Sales are important, but sales alone will not win the war in the long term because since many products and services are commodities, it’s easy to compete with the same features, benefits, quality and price points. So, what do you have left? You need a great brand to market because, that’s the only thing that will differentiate you from your competitors, current and future, is a great brand story. If commodities (oranges and coffee) don’t just depend on sales to win the market, but utilize a strong brand story to de-commoditize their product, it leave no excuse for the rest of us to not accomplish what they’ve done.
It’s like comparing apples to Cuties.