Reassuringly Expensive

by Tom McCallum on February 9, 2011

Recently I was emailing with a friend and fellow social media addict in the UK. I’d identified a strong Marketing Communications opportunity I felt he had and was recommending to him that he talk to a mutual friend working in that field to assist. In his reply, he noted : “I’d heard she was reassuringly expensive”, and I loved that phrase. What I didn’t realise, not being exposed to UK TV here in Cayman, was that it was probably a subliminal reference to the tagline for Stella Artois from their TV ads in recent years, an example of which here :

In later ads I feel the ad agency got carried away with simply saying that Stella Artois is expensive, so pushing image and the implied kudos from paying more, the key message in this particular ad is that you are getting a higher quality product and, accordingly, paying a higher price for it.

Marketers of high priced goods and services are always trying to find the balance between image and actual intrinsic quality.

Recently I went by a “luxury event” held at the private jet terminal at the airport in Grand Cayman. On display were luxury Jets, Boats, Cars, Jewellery, Real Estate etc. Expensive champagne was flowing, no expense spared, and easily 1,000 people were flowing around. None of that expense actually went into the quality of the product, all of it went into the image and mystique of those luxury goods.

On the other hand, I own a pair of Bose QC15 headphones, a $300 spend that I use for noise cancelling whenever I fly. Yes, Bose does a little advertising, but all of it around product performance, there is no “caché” to owning QC15′s. They are simply the best at what they do. I love them so much I just gave you the link to the product. Hmm… the power of product referral marketing… but I digress.

On the professional services side, one of my favourite websites is “Clients from Hell“, full of stories of web designers and developers and how so many clients fail to value that type of work. One of my favourite posts from that site is simply a line a client gave a web designer :

We have no budget for creativity or innovation.

Thinking of my own work as an advisor to businesses and organisations, creativity and innovation can be some of the most expensive things I can offer to my clients, but also are often of the highest value. A recent example was from an initial client engagement for a couple of conference calls to establish if we should look into a larger project. Just a few minutes into the first call, after listening to some strategic thoughts from the client, I gave a simple insight on a potential change to their product positioning. The client’s response ? : “ok, we can hang up now, you’ve already paid for your fee”. Of course we continued on (and are now involved in that longer term project), but the client had just valued my creative insight at an hourly rate of around $10,000. I’m “Reassuringly Expensive” too, but I promise I won’t charge $10,000 per hour for conference calls.

One of Warren Buffett’s most famous quotes is :

“Price is what you pay, Value is what you get”.

Whether you are a service provider or a client, make sure you focus on Value, not on Price.

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February 9, 2011 at 12:04 pm

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Mercedes Gonzalez-Gorbena February 9, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Hi Tom,
well this article touches my background and passion!! Luxury, consumer behavior and innovation.
In theory and to be honest with ourselves and our customers we should always offer premium quality at premium price, and premium price should always come with the reassurance of premium quality. Unfortunately from 2003 to 2007 the great years of the luxury industry in this millennium many companies wanted to jump in the luxury wagon and demanded crazy prices for very poor quality items, no innovation involved, no design involved just the brand alone was strong enough to skyrocket the prices. Unfortunately customers were happy to pay those prices because they were not looking for quality, innovation or design but for the power image that possession would portrait.
But the crisis came and all consumers suffered in bigger or smaller scale but they all suffered. And now the new trend is the realization that you pay for value, and that value comes in the way of design, innovation and quality.
great article keeps me thinking!!!

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