The dirtiest word in product marketing: “Commodity”
One of the most daunting challenges for any CMO, Director of Marketing or Product Manager is the marketing of a commodity product. Sand, toothpaste and water—the struggle to differentiate is real, especially in the music manufacturing industry.
From capos and picks and reeds to strings, the MI marketplace is saturated with products whose attributes are hard to distinguish. Even if you’ve got a legitimate differentiator, the vast majority of your current or potential customers likely don’t have a clue what the difference is between your product and your competitors’ offerings.
I’ve been playing guitar for most of my life, and I can say that, beyond strength and durability, I really couldn’t tell you the difference between the strings on my guitars. As for that brass pick I love? It’s pretty cool, but, like my strings, there are dozens of variables that affect my subjective choice of “great tone.” This is the reality of perceived value when it comes to a commodity.
What’s a brand to do?
If you find your product stuck in the commodity trap, there are some pretty proven techniques that might help: competing on price, innovating product functionality, improving product functionality/ease of use, audience segmentation, bundling with like products, material branding, etc.
If that’s still not enough to get the job done, you’ll have to use your imagination. In the world of marketing, there is one truth: Any product can be differentiated, no matter how standard it may appear.
What makes you different?
If you’ve got a legitimate differentiator, your path to a successful marketing program is pretty straightforward. If you haven’t got a material branding story however, you’re going to have to go the route of creating a story that resonates beyond tangible differences. Have you got a brand heritage to play off of? Are you a DIY manufacturer? Are well-known or emerging artists using your product? All of these are part of an authentic story you can tell, but do yourself a favor and hire an ad agency if you want to get it right.
Tell your story.
The music retailer floor is an assault on the senses. Focusing on any one product can be difficult, if not impossible, unless you already know what you’re looking for. This is the commodity marketers’ first battle in the awareness war, and it’s your first step in selling the brand promise.
If your packaging looks stale, dated or generic, you’re going to lose. One of the best investments you can make is to create a strong visual identity that not only commands attention on its own but also is designed with placement consideration. For example, consider Elixir strings. This brand sits on shelves with dozens of like product, but it’s hard to ignore the wall of purple, green and blue when you’re about to make a string selection.
Once you’ve got your packaging down, your next opportunity, if budget allows, is to take the battle to the player pubs and websites. An attractive and well-thought-out ad campaign is key to generating awareness and differentiating a commodity in a crowded marketplace.
Any time you can invest in developing a content and social strategy will be well spent. The player audience is wildly active in social spaces, and they are voracious content consumers. The audience expectation is that you, as an MI manufacturer, are an expert in the craft. Take what you know, and turn it into valuable content that your audience can use to improve their skills. Establishing this kind of deep relationship with your audience is one sure-fire way to separate yourself from a faceless pack.
Every brand and product has an attribute or story that it can own and use to differentiate. You may have to do a little digging and get creative when it comes to defining your approach, but with a little effort, you too can thrive in a commoditized marketplace.