Home > Articles > Business & Management

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Commoditizing the "Good Enough"

The effects of imitation and commoditization are happening so quickly that we have started taking them for granted. Remember the first time you left the world of 28K and 56K modems for high-speed Internet access? It wasn't that long ago. Remember the rush, the "wow!" you felt? Now, however, aren't you starting to accept high-speed Internet as a given, whether in your business, your home, or your hotel room? It's becoming a yawner—an undifferentiated, routine service offered by many vendors and, accordingly, driven primarily by lower prices. A slew of small companies like Minneapolis-based Astound can challenge giants like Comcast with significantly lower prices for monthly cable access—and, unlike Comcast, they can make a profit off these lower prices because of their lower overhead and access to the most cutting-edge technologies. Large competitors like the "new" AT&T (the "old" SBC) can put together even cheaper $14.95 monthly packages as loss leaders for other products.2 Moreover, in hundreds of communities, wireless high-speed Internet access is already offered nearly free. Although the cable and telecom companies argue that their quality and service is superior, customers themselves are saying, "Maybe so, but what we got for a near-free price is 'good enough.'"

In today's Copycat Economy, "good enough" is a frequent response from customers and investors—and, as it turns out, "good enough" is pretty darn good. Because they're overwhelmed with high-caliber options of goods and services, customers are no longer easily satisfied. They raise the bar on their minimum expectations of quality and service, and they expect to receive it.

My wife just bought a new dishwasher. I have no idea what brand it is, but the fact that it works perfectly doesn't fill me with delight—and it doesn't differentiate that dishwasher from the rest of the pack. My minimum, commodity-based expectation is that it work perfectly. If it does, I don't think about it. If it doesn't, I'm angry and vow a "never again" revenge on the manufacturer.

As more competitors rush to make incremental improvements of products and services, they get commoditized at a higher level, which leads many customers to conclude that "good enough" is really good enough. The fastest-growing wine in the history of America's wine industry is Bronco Wine Company's Charles Shaw wine. It is sold at the upscale Trader Joe's grocery chain, its customers are affluent and trendy, and its price is $1.99—hence its affectionate nickname "Two Buck Chuck." While Charles Shaw might not ever be confused with a vintage collector's wine, it's good enough for the discerning Trader Joe's customer seeking a casual drink. It's certainly good enough to have thoroughly cannibalized the sales of high-priced wines and skewed the industry's entire price structure. Small wonder that a Wine Observer article noted that the "terror of commoditization…is sweeping California's wine producers."

It used to be that if customers didn't pay a premium, they'd have to accept low quality in return. The low-price vendor was, by definition, the low-quality vendor. In the Copycat Economy, that's not true, and I'm not just talking about dishwashers or wine. Witness the financial success and growth rate of many companies as diverse as JetBlue, Progressive Insurance, and Men's Wearhouse, all of which couple low prices with surprisingly higher-end products and service. Rich Walker of the American Architectural Manufacturer's Association, in discussing Chinese imports, concedes, "It's not just that they're cheap. What's scary is that even though they charge one third to one half our price for window framing, they're exporting good-quality product." Last year a young executive at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter wrote me that "over the years, institutional and retail commissions for stock transactions have come down dramatically. Online and discount brokerage firms continue to offer equivalent-quality executions (my emphasis) at lower and lower price points."

The tentacles of the Copycat Economy extend throughout the market, even into "luxury" sectors, as anyone who has bought an authentic Picasso print at Costco will testify. An observer of the private jet market noted in 2002, "After a huge growth spurt in the jet market, the jet manufacturers find themselves with a ton of capacity and product …. Business jets are heading toward commoditization—meaning they are becoming essentially interchangeable—because of the large array of models with similar capabilities."

Other pricey items, even those with sentimental value, are now "good enough" to be commoditized. Caskets made in China now sell for 25 percent less than those built in the U.S., and among the six models of coffins you can now buy at Costco (!), one is priced at $925, which is less than half the price of a conventionally priced product.

Imitation and commoditization have always been part of a business environment, but they are now occurring at a scary unprecedented and accelerating pace. As one CEO of a small manufacturing company told me, "It used to be that if I came up with a terrific product, I could expect to enjoy five years of good returns on it. Now I'm lucky if I get 18 months." In many sectors, 18 months is an unheard-of luxury. In the online dating and matchmaking arena, the bigger sites tend to be interchangeable, and the competition is so intense that if one vendor introduces a new function, you can count on seeing the same option pop up almost immediately on rival sites. The very notion of a leisurely planning cycle has disappeared. And the old, reliable cash cows are dodos.

The bottom line? Imitation and commoditization are the most pressing strategic challenges that you will face for the duration of this decade.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020