• You emphasize price in your marketing. Sales, coupons, special offers, added value, whatever … if your primary message focuses on the price of your product or service, your brand is a commodity. Instead, brands compete upon intangible differentiating attributes (and charge more).
• You emphasize convenience. If your marketing accentuates “multiple locations to serve you,” free parking, extended hours, easy credit terms, etc., your brand is a commodity. This applies to the online user experience as well. Brand loyalists are willing to be inconvenienced for what they perceive to be an overall better experience. Example: Parker’s is a restaurant in rural North Carolina that perennially makes the best Carolina-style BBQ lists. Located in the small town of Wilson, Parker’s isn’t easy to find, yet it serves over 20,000 customers a week and has been in operation since 1946. Brands don’t compete on convenience.
• You emphasize table-stake attributes. All airlines tout “safety,” all hospitals “compassion,” and all banks “stability.” These attributes are the minimum requirements to enter the brand category. They do not differentiate your brand in the minds of consumers. If your marketing message focuses on a table-stake attribute, your brand is a commodity.
• You mimic your competitors. If you duplicate your competitor’s every move, your brand is a commodity. Instead, brands define their categories. They act, rather than react. They innovate, yet maintain consistency of brand experience. If your competitors are mimicking you, you are the leader in the category.
• You create clever names and logos for universally available features. If your “custom” PrecisionFit™ bindings and your “proprietary” LeadingEdge™ development process are essentially the same as those of your competitors, your brand is a commodity. Brands invest in real innovation, not window dressing.
• You listen to the echo chamber. In some organizations, honesty is blasphemy. Employees must buy into the company line or give it lip service. However, consumers may not perceive your brand the same way your stakeholders do. If, in your heart, you know there is little perceived difference between your brand and competitive brands, it’s a commodity.
How else can you tell if a brand is a commodity?