Your Products Don’t Matter – Part 1

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Ok, so that might be overstated a bit. Of course your products matter, but not as much as you might think. Remember the four Ps of marketing? That’s product, price, place and promotion in case you aren’t familiar. The first P listed there, product, used to rule the marketplace. The product was king. Successful companies had some secret recipe or confidential knowledge of their craft that allowed them to create their own unique and powerful products. But those days are coming to an end.

In 2013 (and for the last couple years now), the internet, along with the vast amount of free information available there, has changed the way people think about your products. The internet has essentially ruined the first P of marketing. Here are two big reasons why:

1. Competition.

It’s almost impossible to create a supremely unique and superior product anymore. When people actually do create something new and different, word gets out so fast that the competition is on their backs faster than they can report first quarter sales. And in this kind of market, the competition is hungry. Sooner than you think, they’ll catch on to your product development strategy and hit the streets with something that either rivals or trumps your previously untouchable quality.

Take the Apple v. Samsung lawsuit as a prime example. The smart phone and tablet products produced by the two mega-brands were so similar in some ways that Apple decided to pursue litigation against its competitor. Copying the success of competitors has become commonplace, and even patented products have become susceptible to imitation.

2. Commoditization.

As a result of intense competition and copy-culture, most products today are commodities. Selling products like smartphones and laptops is becoming kin to selling dirt. How do you measure the quality of one kind of dirt versus another? What makes my dirt different from your dirt? The sad reality is that all of the products you’ve worked hard to build are rapidly becoming commodities.

Don’t believe me? Take cars for example. Check out any dealership around and you’ll find some kind of 4-door sedan complete with a V6 engine, Bluetooth tech package, touchscreen entertainment system, chrome highlights and excellent fuel efficiency.  Aside from the logo on the grill, all those cars are pretty much the same – and every car company makes one.

That’s in the car industry, where people pay tens of thousands of dollars for their products. Every year, new improvements are rolled out at auto shows around the world to show off the innovation and individuality of each company, and while top car execs are looking around at their competitors during the show, they all notice that they’re selling the same thing with a different name. Soon enough, as the onward march of technology and information continues, all products will move closer and closer to commoditization.

So, if no product can rationally be king of an entire category, how can you sell a product that falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum? How can you overcome the commodity nature of most products and build a brand that is unique and powerful? I’ll present these ideas and some solutions to this problem in part two of this post – coming on Friday of this week. Be sure to come back and check it out. Until then, feel free to voice your opinion in the comments or argue with me on Twitter: @ccross2181.

4 thoughts on “Your Products Don’t Matter – Part 1”

  1. You’re right on. Products are extremely commoditized, but the WAY that products are sold and serviced, to me is what allows a company to differentiate itself.

    If you haven’t read, check out a book called “Blue Ocean Strategy”. Adds some interesting studies to a similar topic as this blog.

    1. Thanks Garry, I agree. The way products and services are sold is what provides value in today’s marketplace, and that line of thinking is what I’m going to cover in part 2 of this post. And I’ll be sure to add “Blue Ocean Strategy” to my reading list.

    2. I also agree. It’s not about how much of a commodity your product has become. It’s about making it the most desirable commodity. People don’t want a coat; they want a NorthFace. They don’t want a four door sedan; they want a Chevy. I think the desirability of the brand has replaced the necessity of the product.

      1. I like Adam’s point. Brand desirability is at an all time high, I would use North Face as a retail example and then probably Apple for all things tech although they kind of set the standard for how devices should look and operate (i hate apple)

        But isn’t that great for people like us, marketing empowered. If everything is the same people will be forced to beef up those marketing budgets and departments….I like the sound of that #Profits

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