Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fight Commoditization with Real Value

I just finished reading an amazing book by Erich Joachimsthaller, Hidden in Plain Sight: How to find and execute your company's next big growth strategy. It's a fabulous book and I'll be interviewing Erich on my radio program on Wednesday, November 19 on

One line in the book hit me like a ton of bricks this weekend while I was reading it.

"We were a highly specialized product turned into a commodity."

To be clear, the line references a German insurance company who by all accounts was a superior product in the marketplace, but because people where shopping on price, none of their elaborate feature sets meant anything. I see this same situation so often; price-driven markets turning complex and highly differentiated products into commodities. So what is a markter to do?

Well, first you should read this book and it will tell you what the insurance company did. But aside from that, you need to ensure your head is not hidden in the sand, hoping that somehow consumers will suddenly wake up to your messaging and branding and agree with you that your products are truly the unique offerings you believe they are. It's never going to happen.

When a product is willingly or unwillingly turned into a commodity by the market and consumer opinion, the simple fact of the matter is that the product has failed to rise above the fray and create a demand ecosystem. In other words, I would say that most products suffering this fate are developing and pushing feature sets that are not relevant, not important, and don't resonate with consumers. That's why they're comparing only on price, because you're just as good, or good enough, as everyone else.

I think Joachimsthaller brings out many excellent ideas in his fresh book and it shoudl be required reading for MBA students. Oh wait, I teach MBA classes, and I assign the books. Guess what folks -- it's now on the reading list!

-- David Kinard, PCM

Hidden in Plain Sight is also the American Marketing Association Foundation’s Berry Book Award winner for the best new book in marketing.

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