The Solution to a Commoditized Offering

On a daily basis, we hear from financial advisors complaining that their work is commoditized, meaning they believe everyone else is doing it.  With over two million advisors throughout the nation, that may sound like a legitimate frustration.  Advisors worry that what was once rare, like financial planning or customized portfolios, is now being offered by everyone else in their industry.  They worry that what was once unique, like being an RIA, is now growing to be a household word (thanks to Tony Robbins!).  They fear that anyone can go get their CFP and start managing money, and that robots are about to take over their jobs.  

As someone who has studied and is passionate about branding, I am the first to object that view!  As a lover of marketing and sales, I am constantly fascinated by some of the fastest growing brands in the nation.  In my opinion, the success behind most brands these days is taking a solution or product that is extremely commoditized, repackaging and rebranding it, building an emotional story around it, and then creating a following and client base that leads to billions of dollars in new value.

Take for example water, one of the most saturated and commoditized things in the Western Hemisphere (unfortunately not the same case in more impoverished nations).  Here in the U.S or Canada, we are blessed to be able to simply go to our kitchen sinks and pour some water for ourself!  Restaurants bring water to us as soon as we sit down, and we can even drink it from the water fountain at the gym.  That being said, why is it that water bottle companies are making BILLIONS?  New players like PepsiCo’s LIFEWTR are making waves by striking the community nerve with millennials. By featuring three new artists every few months, they are putting an exciting spotlight on causes like Arts and Education.  I think I paid $5 for one bottle of LIFEWTR last week at my gym (Lifetime, which is also revolutionizing the gym industry)!

Take stationary bicycle riding.  Some gyms used to call it Spinning.  It was boring, most gyms offered it, and it did what it was supposed to do: Give you a nice workout.  SoulCycle came into the picture, and by positioning itself as the luxurious treat to fitness people who want to have a soulful experience in their workout, it has revamped the tired old spin class with a cult-like following.  With their nightclub lighting and high energy trainers who individualize riders' experiences, this brand has elevated something tired and bland into an exceptionally rewarding praise. In fact, SoulCycle has grown into an IPO candidate, and has expanded into a clothing line sold at popular millennial destinations such as Urban Outfitters.

The list of such stories can go on and on: Taxis to Uber, Hair salons to Drybar, diapers to Honest Company, and more.

As you can see, what all these companies have in common is that they took something that was viewed as bland and oversaturated, and then rebranded and repackaged it to build a mission statement.  By doing that, they were able to better connect on an emotional level with their target market, thus creating a buzz and social selling experience, and separating themselves from the rest of their competitors.

You can absolutely do the same thing as a financial advisor, through repackaging, rebranding, and building a purpose around what you do.