From Commodity to Brand
Branding insights can happen just about anywhere – even in the next door neighbor’s driveway. That’s exactly where I encountered a commodity product that has been transformed into a brand – in my next door neighbor’s driveway.
My neighbors Bob & Sharon are avid gardeners. In the spring they go to every nursery and garden center in our area in search of the best plants. They spend a lot of time tending to their flowers and shrubs. The results are outstanding. In the summer months their yard explodes into a kaleidoscope of color.
Recently Bob told me about his plan to add some extra soil to his flower beds. The delivery was scheduled for the next day.
Delivering the Order
I expected to see a dump truck arrive and unload a big pile of dirt on Bob’s driveway. But that didn’t happen. The next morning, instead of dump truck, a huge semi with two trailers and a fork lift came rolling down the street. It was loaded with dozens of big yellow bags filled with “Alberta Gold” top soil.
Bob hadn’t ordered a dump of dirt. He ordered a nice, neat, branded container of top soil.
The packaging is the essential point in this story. The big yellow bag transformed a commodity into a brand – and not just because it provided space for graphics.
The yellow bag is a brand maker because it enhances the customer’s entire experience with the product.
Dump of Dirt Dilemmas
Gardeners who order a dump of dirt are at the mercy of the weather. If the dirt arrives on a windy day, it blows into the adjacent yard and riles up the neighbors. If rain is in the forecast customers have to do their yard work as soon as the truck arrives, or risk having the dirt wash away into the storm sewer.
A Better Customer Experience
The big yellow bag is a game changer. It protects the soil from wind and rain. It allows gardeners to do their yard work when the sun shines and in little bits at a time. There is also no mess to clean up afterwards. With the yellow bag there is no unsightly dirt footprint left on the driveway or lawn.
The Brand Price Premium
The packaging provides huge advantages over the traditional dump truck approach to home dirt delivery. And because the soil is now a brand, it is also more expensive.
The going rate for a cubic yard of dirt dumped on the driveway is about $100. The same cubic yard of dirt delivered in the big yellow bag costs 50% more. This price premium is definitive proof that the yellow bag has achieved true brand status. Yellow bag soil is not dirt cheap.
What About Your Company?
What can your company learn from the big yellow bag?
The biggest lesson is to focus on your customer’s experience. What bothers customers about your product or service? What would make their experience better? In the case of the dirt, the problem wasn’t the product itself, but the weather. Finding a way to protect the soil from the wind and rain made all the difference.
If you can make problems go away, or add extra benefits, you could have the basis for a brand.
Packaging as a Competitive Advantage
The next lesson is a bit more specific - pay attention to packaging. There is no difference in the actual product whether it is delivered by dump truck or in a big yellow bag. The source of competitive advantage is in the packaging. The yellow bag doesn’t just make the product look better, it makes it more functional.
Hope for Commodity Sellers
The final lesson should be an inspiration for every company, no matter what you’re selling. Is there anything that is more of a commodity than dirt? And yet the big yellow bag people elevated dirt into a brand.
If you can brand dirt, you can brand anything.