Brand vs. Commodity

A discussion on the difference between a brand and a commodity is going on at one of my groups on LinkedIn. This discussion was initiated by Marco Monfils from Hungary. More than 150 comments have been made so far, highlighting marketing and sales professionals love for this topic. It is interesting that respondents presented their own definition and description of a brand and commodity, no author was quoted and the comments varied greatly. I noticed two significant trends as follows:

a)      Though there are more than 150 highly different comments, these could be grouped into eight major categories. That is, most of the respondents differentiated between a brand and a commodity either from value-addition perspective, loyalty and relationship, functional & emotional attributes, brand personality & experience, perceived value & expectations, needs & wants, unique identity or price.

b)      The respondents come from a diverse professional background including Business & Financial Consultancy, Sales & Business Development, Account Management, Marketing, Business  & Franchising, and Real Estate. Most of the respondents are from other than marketing profession. Having worked in the CPG marketing for long, I considered branding a purview of marketing because marketers are responsible for creating consumer pull for brands. This differentiation is getting blurred and branding is a cross-functional discipline now, especially in B2B set up.

I took the liberty of picking the brand descriptions that I liked most and present these to you here alongwith the name of the group member.  

A brand is a product that is elevated above commodity level because of its added value in the mind of a shopper or consumer.  By Lynn Wentzel

Commodity resonates with consumer at the functional level; brand goes beyond, resonating at the emotional level.   By Keith Kelley

A Brand is that Commodity with a personality!   By Thomas Bullock

A commodity is a product, a THING, tangible. A brand is a[n] idea, a thought, a feeling and is intangible……. As Herb Lubalin said, “Products are made in the factory. Brands are made in the mind.” By  Bob Bischoff


A brand provides an ‘experience’, a commodity does not.  By Chad Symens

A brand improves the life of its loyal consumer because it constantly brings a new and better feature or experience – it innovates.  By Dana Mosora

Brand is what people identify with. A commodity is traded, bought or sold.  By Craig Castle 

And my two-cent worth is as follows:

Brands create and satisfy consumers’ wants, commodities meet consumers’ needs.

Taking a leaf out of Dan Heath’s book, Brands live in the penthouse of Maslow Hierarchy of Needs; commodities live in its basement.

Which of the above brand and commodity descriptions you like or how would you differentiate between the two?

Please comment here and let us know.


About Fazal Siddiqi
Fazal Siddiqi Writes on current marketing, branding, communications, diversity and socio-economic opportunities & challenges. He lives in Canada and works for OPAL Marketing Group.

6 Responses to Brand vs. Commodity

  1. Murali says:

    Good discussion- we talk about brands all the time but I think few have a clear understanding of it. This would help

  2. Thanks for your comment Murali. I agree, though it’s more of a Marketing 101, but does help refresh our thinking about Brands.


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  4. mohamed says:

    Buying a brand==> Emotional decision
    Buying a commodity ==> Rational decision

  5. Thank you for the post. I believe the comments on brand vs commodity are accurate. I feel that they compliment each other, once you have an understanding of both.
    Richard Benchimol
    Leads Indeed

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