Look at every product and service you have and ask, “Why is this item a commodity?” Then ask, “What can we do to make it different?” For example, look at the features and functions of your products, how things are housed, how convenient the product or service is, what the customer experience is like, how something is processed or made, etc.
With the bottled water example, could you change the bottle, filter the water more, or add flavors or vitamins to it? If you sell coffee, could you enhance the customer’s experience or change a familiar product into something unique? For example, Starbucks moved meeting for a cup of coffee from the local diner to a relaxing coffee shop. Then they took good old-fashioned coffee and transformed it into tasty coffee drinks that even non-coffee drinkers would love. Between flavoring hot coffee and blending iced coffee, they made drinking coffee an experience rather than a commodity you buy at the grocery store.
The key to really understanding and embracing this concept is to realize that every product and service can be de-commoditized. Yes, it takes some creativity, thinking, and trend watching. But the biggest thing it takes is for you to get rid of your assumption that something can’t be de-commoditized. Most of us have learned to live with commodity items. So maybe tissues are tissues, but chances are the ones you buy and pay more money for are softer, or they have aloe, or they have anti-virus ingredients, or they come in a designer box. The possibilities for changes exist for everything.
As you de-commoditize your items, remember that if you de-commoditize once and sit back, that de-commoditized item will soon become a commodity. So do continuous de-commoditization. Not only will you raise the bar based on trends, but you’ll also find yourself with good margins and a growing business.