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Decommodify your product (gapingvoid.com)
29 points by boredguy8 on June 13, 2008 | hide | past | favorite | 14 comments

"What a lovely grain of sand you are... Too bad you're lying on a beach."

I was just struck by how elegantly and simply those few words got such an important and fundamental point across.

This is all well and good. A product that people will buy because of brand (an iPhone, say) is worth more than one people buy because of what it is (a generic smartphone, in this context). So brand is a good thing to strive for.

But there are other "decommodification" techniques that don't work so well. The same thing that gives you that great apple goodness is the reason we're all suffering with DRM, vendor lock-in, and senseless incompatibility. These are all just variants on the same theme: don't make things simple for the consumer, force them to "choose" you over your competitors.

On the whole, I'd rather live in a world of commodities than brands, honestly.

> On the whole, I'd rather live in a world of commodities than brands, honestly.

Of course you would! Commodification is good for the consumer, not the producer.

Once you begin focusing on brand, you are embracing the path of a commodity--it's a defensive posture that subtracts from quality and identity.

Anyone can buy branding and in among commodities, that is the only hope. Identity and quality, however, must be built in.

How is brand different from identity? And if you have a quality product, isn't it your brand that communicates this to your customers?

"Branding" is a focus on perception, on advertising and promotion. "Identity" is a focus on developing your core values. The touchstone is whether or not what a company projects is decided by marketing strategy in isolation or by business development as a whole. Ideally, these are one in the same, but they rarely actually are coincidental.

I'm not so sure wine is a commodity like he says. Well, some wine is, the kind you buy bulk from the guys who make it. My father in law gets the stuff for around a euro a liter or something, and it's actually pretty good for table wine. You can certainly taste the difference between good and bad wines, and different varieties, with a bit of experience. That's in Italy, though...

Right, it's not a commodity at all. Commodity implies it's all the same and virtually interchangeable. Even two wines of the same varietal from the same region and micro-climate produced in the same year can taste vastly different.

Just because there are a lot of choices does not mean it's a commodity. My guess is that the author just doesn't understand wine and saw some numbers.

That may be true in the eyes of enlightened consumers, but there are a lot of people who cannot easily discern these different types of wine, and to them wine is a commodity.

Consider a commodity like steel. To most people, steel is steel. You can use steel from any supplier in any project that requires it. But to some people, particularly engineers and material scientists in very specific applications, the different makes of steel become more important.

So one person's commodity may be another person's brand. I think the point of the article is to encourage producers to work to shift the trend towards brand, to their advantage.

Well, by your logic just about anything can be a commodity, which would make the term nearly useless.

Wine producers have been shiting toward brand since their inception. Again, I don't think the author understands the wine industry at all.

Forcing a market to commodify by being the first to offer a commodity product is a reasonable goal for a business... I've been toying with this as a source of startup ideas and in the last week or so I've gotten seriously interested in a strategy to commodify virtual worlds. The tech required is pretty big, though, so I'm going to keep it in a pre-commercial, research stage until I have something to show.

In the case of wine, it's about also about availability. Generic wine from a local producer trumps branded wine that's stacked in a hypermarche 30km away when you want a drink. And you probably know the grower, went to school with his kids, whatever. And said grower has a pretty good life and isn't really interested in becoming the Wine King of Chicago.

So what I'm saying is, what looks like a commodity in one market may not actually be one in another market.

Another way to decommodify is being original and to have good design

"OTHER PEOPLE'S WINE may already be a commodity, but NOT OUR WINE, no no no no... Our wine is SPECIAL, yes yes yes yes..."

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