The dilemma in differentiating a commodity

The rising commodity costs have hit commodity businesses, hard. Take Catch spices for instance. Unable to absorb rising commodity cost and increase in consumer prices, DS Foods, maker of Catch spices and water has stopped production of spices under its 'Catch' brand. Its been two months now since the company has shut down production of Catch spices that include salt and pepper.

The most difficult of all marketing exercises, is in differentiating commoditised products. Theodore Lewitt in his book 'Marketing Imagination' stated thus about differentiation; 'There is no such thing as a commodity. All good and services can be differentiated and usually are... The only exception to this proposition is in the minds of people who profess that exception... In fabricated consumer and industrial goods, competitive distinction is visibly sought via distinctive product features, some visually or measurable identifiable, some cosmetically implied, and some rhetorically claimed by reference to real or suggested hidden attributes that promise result or values different from those of competitors.'

What makes Catch's desire to differentiate that much more difficult is the usage patterns of, lets say a commodity like salt, in India. Very rarely is this commodity used for anything other than in cooking. That is, 'table salt' in that form is rarely present on Indian tables. Therefore the form in which it is used doesn't require any special packaging (that way certain 'Catch salt' is packaged, for tables, at a higher price), which may otherwise drive up prices.

Differentiating commodities is an uphill task. 'Catch' will have to ensure that its on shop shelves and will also hav have to undertake promotions on shop shelves that would incur costs, yet just may ensure that its picked by the consumer over other brands. Its a tactic worth employing, especially since the movement off shelves is only way to get production to start rolling back on.


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