Taken from Wikipedia, "A commodity is anything for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market."
Examples would be things like rice, oil, scratch pads, combs, milk, and all other things that are basically "just things."
Marketing involves taking something out of the commodity level and moving it into the quality level----either for real, or through perception.
So we can say rice is rice, or we can say that Jimbo`s Brazilian Rice is loaded with vitamins (and by implication, no other rice has any vitamins).
More and more, we`re living in a world where value, quality, personalization, and differentiation are being forced out of existence. One-stop shopping, templates, turnkey solutions, mass production, all are ways to reduce anything to a commodity.
Think about an artist painting pictures. Each picture is unique. Long ago, that was the only way to get a picture of your house, family, or scenery. Each picture had meaning, was special to the artist, and every one of them was different.
Then came lithographs, silk screening, printing, photography, Xerox machines and on and on. Each process opened a market by offering unusual and unique items to a large customer market. But at the same time, it introduced a "same-ness" to life.
Many things lend themselves to being commodities. When they`re first invented or discovered, they`re unusual and strange, almost unique for that matter. But with market acceptance, proliferation, and mass distribution, almost anything can be reduced to a commodity.
Computers used to be rare, hard to make, expensive, and only wealthy people could afford them. With the move towards mass production, and developments in new manufacturing processes computers have become commodities.
So the question is what`s the best category to choose when coming up with a business idea?
Do you want to sell what already has become a commodity, or do you want to create and sell something of value?
If you choose to sell commodities, then reality dictates that you must introduce a marketing process that will elevate your "generic thing" into the value category. Your "thing" must be or appear to be unusual, different, unique, special, or have some distinguishing value.
Another problem is that if you choose the unusual, new, different, artistic, personalized value item, then reality dictates that it will NOT fit into turnkey solutions. If everyone is selling salt, and you decide to sell windshield wipers, you won`t find a simple, template-based, turnkey solution to selling those wipers.
Windshield wipers don`t fit into a template designed to sell salt!
Much of today`s forced confusion is trying to put a round sphere into a triangular hole. Marketing companies seem to be trying to make themselves into commodities. They routinely try to convince you that no matter WHAT you come up with, it`s been done to death.
These marketing companies often will try to tell you that a piece of rock is a piece of rock. So what if it`s a diamond? It`s still rock, so you can sell it at standard geology conventions. You can sell it by weight, or in bulk. Right?
Not everything is subject to being "just another thing." How do you decide? How will you know if your business idea is a commodity or a value item? How do you work out the value "proposition" if you do choose to sell commodities?