Today’s show is a very special edition where I came across a lesson in marketing that was simply too brilliant not to share with you.

We’re talking about taking a commodity, a commodity that is traditionally sold by the pound, and elevating it to another level, by wrapping a few key concepts into it.

I’m coming to you live from Portugal where the economy here has been through its ups and downs over the years. This is my third trip to Portugal. My father owned an apartment here and spent the winters for a number of years.

The roots of this story started in 1926 with a military coup d’etat that resulted in a fascist dictatorship in 1933 under the direction of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. Life was difficult under the Salazar regime, and many local people turned to the sea to find food and economic survival. It was during these years that the sardine fishery expanded dramatically. At the peak, there were 400 canneries in operation.

Canning of fish started in Nantes France in the year in 1824. By the 1850’s Portugal too had started canning fish and the abundant supply of high quality sardines combined with the extensive coastline and rich fishing tradition eventually turned sardines into one of Portugal’s main exports.

But folks, we’re talking about Sardines. They’re sold by the pound. We’re talking about $3-4 per pound.

Let me introduce you to Il Mundo Fantastico De Sarindha’s Portuguesas. Translated it means the Fantastic World of Portuguese Sardines. But the name itself doesn’t convey the image. Imagine a store where the motive is the brightest circus tent colors and the decoration is like that of the flashiest carnival or perhaps even Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Inside the store, tins of sardines line the walls from floor to ceiling.

There is an entire wall of sardines organized into columns where each column consists of a birth year. The tins are all painted in a period design and there is a custom design for each decade. There is a wall of tins with different types of fish including tuna, Octopus, smoked salmon, mussels, and eels.

The sardine cans have dates since 1916 until present day, with a relevant event from the year in question and signalling the birth of the most prominent personalities of that year. For example, in 1927, the very first motion picture movie to have sound “The Jazz Singer” was released. Each of these tins are a work of art. I can imagine people buying a tin and never opening it. It’s almost too beautiful to consume.

Now I have no interest in buying a can from 1931. That date bears no significance to me. But I might consider buying a can for the year I was born, or perhaps a gift for someone for their birthday.

When you go into the store, the staff tell you the story of the cannery, and how even today, all the cans are packed by hand, the same as when the factory was founded in 1942. They tell you about how the generations of people have made the sardine cannery their livelihood.

Understand, it’s not about the sardines. I don’t even eat sardines. But my wife and I were so taken with the store that we had to go inside. My wife informed the shop keeper that we would love to hear the story, but would not be buying anything since we have a Vegan diet.

You’ll never guess what happened next. The shop keeper showed us two cans with Vegetarian and Vegan contents. Of course we purchased a tin. I don’t even know what’s inside, but I paid 7 Euros for a hand painted tin with some kind of edible contents.

So as you think about your real estate offerings, what are you doing that connects uniquely with your clients that makes them feel special, like the product was designed specifically for them?

If it can be done with a commodity like sardines, you can customize anything to fit your client.