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Be a Brand or Sell Your Love on the Street

In Thailand, everywhere you go there are a million opportunities to consume.

Food and shopping, food and shopping. Did you just go shopping? Let’s get some food! Repeat.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, of course, but what boggles my mind is that despite the sheer quantity of street vendors and market booth operators hawking their wares, not a single one of them is doing anything to stand out.

Here’s a room full of shoes, and one lined with ripped off DVDs. Here’s one with knockoff denim and one with unbranded juice. Here’s one with souvenir trinkets and, ope, we’re back to the shoes. And there’s another DVD shop. And more denim.

It sounds impressive to say that there are thousands of booths at a weekend market, but is it really if every 5th person is selling the same thing? If there are maybe 16 different types of booth, and hundreds of each of them?

I don’t know if it’s due to a Thai tall-poppy syndrome or if it’s because they all get their food from the same centralized company, but it seems to me that all a shopkeeper would have to do to stand out is anything different. Anything at all.

But they don’t, so what you end up with is a shouting match.

The dude outside of this tailor shop tells you that he’ll make you some nice pants. The one at the next shop says that you’ve got a nice figure and he can make a nice fitted shirt for you. The third escalates things further by telling you he loves you and you should buy a suit (all of these actually happened to me, by the way).

And then there’s the price.

In a market where everything has been reduced to commodity status, most products and services have been cut down in price to the bare minimum. It’s amazing they’re able to eat with what they make in profit.

To quote Dan from Uncornered Market in a recent discussion we had on the topic, “I can’t figure out where the margin is.”

What about you and your product?

Are you standing out and creating your own market where there is little or no competition, or are you shouting as loud as you can to be heard above the hawkers next door, slowly lowering your prices and telling people you love them just to make a sale?

Don’t be a commodity, be a brand.

Update: February 2, 2017

I was attempting to instill a lot of euphemisms in my blog post titles around the point, it would seem.

That said, I’ve seen this same thing all around the world, very much including online. No differentiation, a race to the bottom. I would augment my above statements to say that I kind of get why people do this when what they’re selling is illegal or frowned-upon. A lot of the vendors in Thailand are operating alongside the law, and if they stick their neck out too far, they’ll get noticed.

But a small investment in branding can still have a huge impact in many other industries, for the seller, and for the consumer. So long as it’s done right.