Perception and Pricing

6 May 2008 at 6:34 pm 1 comment

Earlier this year researchers from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the California Institute of Technology published the results of a study on the effect of price relative to preference in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Not typically a widely reported on publication, but the outcome of the study caused many in the mainstream media to sit up and take notice. As covered in the New York Times, The Economist, CNet and others, Antonio Rangel, along with Baba Shiv and John O’Doherty conducted a very interesting wine-tasting.

Participants in the study were presented with two glasses of wine and given no other information other than that one wine was $5/glass and the other was $45/glass. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) they documented that the part of the brain that experiences pleasure becomes more active when the drinker thinks he/she is enjoying the more expensive wine. Of course, both glasses of wine were from the same bottle.

“What we documented,” said Shiv, “is that price is not just about inferences of quality…but that price changes a person’s experience with a product.”

The researchers ran different variations of the test, for example, when one wines was said to cost $10 a bottle it was rated less than half as good as when people were told it cost $90 a bottle, its true retail price. Moreover, when the team carried out a follow-up blind tasting without price information they got different results. The volunteers reported differences between the three “real” wines but not between the same wines when served twice.

Rangel, having only studied consumer reactions to wine pricing, is hesitant to extrapolate too much, but says he believes that the bias toward higher prices occurs in many areas. And history has certainly shown that conspicuous consumption and waste are an important part of many societies.

There are many instances of this price-placebo effect, and many companies throughout the years have used it to their advantage. One my favorite, all-time examples is the L’Oréal slogan “Because I’m Worth It”: The L’Oréal products cost more than the other haircare and make-up options on the shelves, but extra cost was rendered incidental by the branding. And while there are many considerations to keep in mind when pricing a product or service–your local market, demand, profit and revenue goals, etc.-it important to realize the additional information and now, clearly, experience value, that pricing plays in terms of branding and positioning.

What’s your take on this? Do you think you’re in a position to bump your prices and improve your customers’ experience?

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Entry filed under: Experience Enhancement, Pricing. Tags: , .

The Likeability Factor Just a Little Bit

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Linda H. Bassert  |  2 June 2008 at 9:14 pm

    I remember talking to another designer at an event, and discussing hourly fees. She thought mine was too low, and since I had a great deal of experience, my being in business for myself only a short while was not something I should be factoring into my pricing. “Remember,” she said,” When you price your services too low, you devalue all of us.”
    I raised my rates shortly after that, and have not seen any decrease in the clients I want, only fewer of the bargain hunters – who don’t want full service anyway, unless it is free.

    Reply

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