How to Be Remarkable When You Are Selling a Commodity

Adil Zafar
Marketing Realm
Published in
4 min readMay 2, 2020


How do you charge high prices for your products and services while having your customers thank you for it? In short, by being remarkable. When given this answer, the first thing many business owners do is mutter under their breath something like “easier said than done.” Perhaps this is because being remarkable evokes visions of being unattainably unique or creative-something that others far more talented do.

The café owner says, “Dude, I just sell coffee. How am I supposed to be remarkable?” That raises a common question: how can you be remarkable when you sell a commodity?

Let’s look at a few examples.

When I talk about being remarkable, I don’t necessarily mean that the product or service you sell is unique. Far from it. In fact, being unique is a dangerous, difficult and expensive place to be. However, you must be different. How can our café owner be different? Check this out:

How much extra did it cost the cafe to serve art with its coffee? Pretty close to zero, I would expect. Maybe some extra training for the barista and a few extra seconds of time per cup, but how many people will each customer tell or, better still, bring in to show? Could this café owner charge 50¢ more per cup than the café down the road? For sure. That’s 50¢ of pure profit multiplied by hundreds of thousands of cups per year straight to the bottom line. Yet, is the product unique? Not by a long shot! It’s just slightly different-different enough to be remarkable.

Here’s another example. Most e-commerce sites send the same boring confirmation email when you buy from them. Something along the lines of, “Your order has been shipped. Please let us know if it doesn’t arrive. Thank you for your business.” But have a look at how CD Baby creates a remarkable experience for the customer and a viral marketing opportunity for themselves instead of a normal boring confirmation email:

Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized, contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow. A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle, and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards, and the whole party marched down the street to the post office, where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Friday, June 6th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year.” We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

This order confirmation email has been forwarded thousands of times and posted on countless blogs and websites. Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby, credits this remarkable order confirmation message for creating thousands of new customers. Again, nothing unique about the product, but the transformation of something ordinary and boring gives the customer a smile and creates free viral marketing for the business.

Here’s one more example from another highly competitive, commodity industry-consumer electronics: When Apple first launched their legendary music player, the iPod, they could have talked about the five-gigabyte storage capacity or other technical features like all the other manufacturers of music players of the day did. But instead, how did they promote it? “1000 songs in your pocket”

Genius! Five gigabytes doesn’t mean a thing to most consumers. Neither does a bunch of technical jargon, but “1000 songs in your pocket”-anyone can instantly understand that and the benefits it will offer.

The iPod was by no means the first portable music player on the market or even the best, but they were by far the most successful because of their ability to quickly and easily convey the reasons why you should buy.

Notice, in all three of these examples, the actual product being sold is a commodity and what makes it remarkable is something totally peripheral to what you are buying. Yet, the seller can and does command premium pricing because they are selling a remarkable experience. Not only is the customer happy to pay the premium but also rewards the seller by spreading the message about their product or service. Why? Because we all want to share things and experiences that are remarkable. What can you do in your business that’s remarkable? Your clarity around this will have a huge impact on the success of your business.



Adil Zafar
Marketing Realm

A marketing consultant trying to write on subjects ranging from persona; finance to child psychology. As founder of Marketing Realm, I help businesses grow.