I used to believe that as a presentation company, we dodged the commodity trap rather nicely. People just weren’t interested enough in our field, arguably the most mundane aspect of design (next to two-color business cards that is) to compete with us.

Earlier this year though, I was on a roadshow and our client was telling her audience why she hired us, she said, “I can throw a stone from my office and hit 10 companies that do what these guys do…”.

Actually, she couldn’t.

Her brain though, sorting machine it is, just grouped us in with the closest thing it could find i.e. every other company that hired designers and editors. It’s not her fault, it’s what we’ve trained our brains to do.

I was outraged though, I wanted to argue. I wanted to rush the stage and condemn her to the masses as wrong. What stopped me was the realization that in her mind she was right, and perception is as good as reality. The way I see it you can spend time arguing the problem or you can skip the headache and simply work the solution.

So, now we have competition. Every single company our clients’ brains decide to lump us with. We are a commodity. The bad news is this, so are you. With almost no exceptions. Even the most unique product will eventually be commoditized in the minds of your clients. It’s not an issue of if just of when.

So why did she hire us then?

Well, according to her it was for all the little things we do, the things that have nothing to do with the product we supply. My belief is this:

The product and service we offer categorizes us, everything else we do defines us.

You can beat commodity, you’re probably just trying too hard at the big category related things that your clients’ brains are gonna render redundant eventually.

Sure getting the product better-than-expectation is a must.

It just ain’t everything…!