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Commodity – Using Branding To Commoditise A Product Or Service


Water is a commodity. You simply cannot do without it.

No matter your beliefs or inclinations, you cannot dispute how important water is. It is said that one can go up to three weeks without food, but after three days without water one is likely to perish.

See Also: Let your brand make a statement.

Start Your Business in 30 Days Even If You Don't Have An Idea
Start Your Business in 30 Days Even If You Don’t Have An Idea

All that to reinforce how important water, a commodity, is.

A commodity has varying definitions based on context and usage, but for this one, I will stick to the most basic: a raw material or product that can be bought and sold in its natural state without adding or removing anything from it – like coffee, copper, salt, water – and so on. Or something valuable and necessary – like water or time or food.

A product on the other hand, is an article or piece of something developed, refined and branded for sale. For example, the alphabet is a commodity while a storybook is a product.

See Also: Ways to get visibility on social media.

Clear? Good.

In some cases, products have become commodities – in the context of the second definition. Like toothpaste. As far as I know, there is no natural mineral resource known as toothpaste, yet I doubt there’s one human being in the modern world that has not heard of toothpaste and what it does.

Hence, a product has become a commodity.

See Also: Who cares if it is a copycat product?

Indomie is another product that has seemingly made that milestone – at least as far as a huge section of the Nigerian population is concerned. That product has almost no competition, and, in fact, it is the name by which other brands (noodles) in the same category are known. That is saying much, in a market space very much known for cloning. As soon as a product is popular, copies start popping up everywhere. But clones can only last for so long. Indomie is a clear market leader in their category.

Yet, they didn’t get there overnight.

How did they do it?

The answer to that question is as elusive as the answer to the question: “What makes a hit song?”

There are no answers – there’s no one formula for success, but there are things that help. It helps to study market leaders in whatever category. You can be sure they offered something unique. Some years ago, Alomo Bitterswas a very popular herbal drink. For some reason (I doubt it was the taste, because it was incredibly bitter), people gravitated towards it. It became a runaway hit. It was even served at parties!

But there were places this product couldn’t get into – at least not publicly.

Then came Orijin which simply was the same thing packaged in a better-looking bottle. What made Orijin different from Alomo was simply branding. Orijin also contained less alcohol and didn’t taste as bitter. But it pushed Alomo to the side mostly because of branding. Suddenly people who wouldn’t be seen talking about Alomo swaggered about with Orijin bottles. It became available everywhere Alomo was – and in many other places Alomo wasn’t.

What branding did for Orijin was to make it cool.

What approach are you taking towards your product? Be aware, ‘product’, in this case, means more than just a box in a store window; it also covers your services – whatever you offer. What steps are you taking to make you or your product a market leader?

Go from idea to starting your business in 30 days
Go from idea to starting your business in 30 days

Consider this:

Do you know a brand of sugar that comes in a blue box simply designed, with St. Louis emblazoned on it?Maybe not so much now, but growing up that was about the only brand of sugar most homes consumed in Nigeria.

Fact. You can google that if you like.

The interesting thing about St. Louis is that I don’t remember it having a single advertisement on TV or radio. They just package the sugar and deliver to stores – and they have been market leaders, at least in Nigeria, for over thirty years.

Some years back, they finally did an ad – to announce a change of packaging.

I have no idea how they got to keep leading the market, but I can say consistency played a huge part. Over the years, there have been a number of sugar brands popping up all over the place using the same blue box St. Louis made popular. But then they always disappeared.

St Louis sugar has become a commodity.

Think about this truth: most white sugar taste alike, but people (maybe even you) would buy St Louis over any other one. Noodles too. They all taste alike but people would choose Indomie over other brands. How about telcos? Most people nowadays have an MTNline and then a line from another network for ‘support’. Why?

If you can answer those questions about your brand/product, you may very well be on your way to building a commodity.


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Photo Credit: Brandpowerng



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