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My favorite section of Business Week magazine, Innovation, published a provocative article on October 10th. Is Your Brand Headed for Extinction? was written by the self-described girls of 3iYing, a marketing and design strategy firm that specializes in marketing to girls ages 15 to 25....

In the article, the authors make a number of very salient points, and it is well worth reading. They point out the sheer number of products that have made entire categories undistinguishable. As examples, they then describe what it's like to shop for shampoo or women's shaving supplies at CVS or Walgreen's, which are alternately referred to as "an indiscernible blob of hot pink" and "jellybean green."
Excerpt from the article:

"In aisles filled with visual homogeneity, brands don't snag our attention. It's too hard to tell the difference between Pert and Prell unless we actually take the time to read the packaging. We don't want to cross-reference product benefits in the aisle. It's just not fun."

I totally concur with this
The article also makes this succinct statement:
"In the end, the brands look the same, the packages look the same, the products look the same, the racks look the same, the stores look the same and the ads look the same."

Ain't that the truth?
In short, these kinds of tactics on the part of marketers and package designers, end up making products and their brands commodities in category after category. After all, how can customers be expected to make sense of the myriad product offerings out there if we don't help them by differentiating our brands in a meaningful way? And how can we expect to build emotional connections to our brands, and any kind of loyalty if our widgets look just like everybody else's?
It's perverse to think that in this day of strong brand consciousness in business, and a proliferation of competitive products from one category to the next, that there appears to be less variety (read: differentiation) than ever!
As I've always maintained, a unique brand identity has to be developed if a company is to be successful with its products or services. It is the responsibility of the entire company to protect the brand, and to be its faithful representation and image across the organization, and most importantly, to the customer.
Everyone within the corporate structure is, or should be, a brand ambassador if the customer is going to be able to enjoy a seamless experience with that brand across all touchpoints. Trust me: the company that fulfills this mission every day will have a successful brand. The ones that don't will have perceived commodity products and services and, as the girls at 3iYing stated: see their brands headed for extinction.

Continue reading "Branding: The Commodity Conundrum" ... Read the full article

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Ted Mininni is president of Design Force, Inc. (, a leading brand-design consultancy to consumer product companies (phone: 856-810-2277). Ted is also a regular contributor to the MarketingProfs blog, the Daily Fix.

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