Be careful when offering your brand for free

Be careful when offering your brand for free

When you give something free, people don’t value it. Even if your brand is being given free as a gift with the purchase of another brand, whether highly priced or not, it could backfire.

Behavioural scientist Priya Raghubir had participants view a duty-free catalog that featured liquor as the target product and a pearl bracelet as the bonus gift. One group was asked to evaluate the desirability and value of the pearl bracelet in the context of it being the gift, and another group was asked to evaluate the pearl bracelet by itself. She found that people were willing to pay around 35% less for the pearl bracelet when they saw it bundled with the target product as a gift, than when they saw it as a standalone product.

This happens because consumers might infer that the product’s manufacturer wouldn’t give away a valuable product for free. People may wonder what might be wrong with the gift or may assume that the gift is obsolete or out of style or isn’t selling or it may be plain junk.

One way of preventing such damage would be to inform consumers about the true value of the gift. So instead of a ‘Free backpack with the suitcase’, it should read ‘Free backpack worth Rs. 1990 with the suitcase’.

This has application for anyone looking to influence others. Says Robert Cialdini, Professor of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University, “by pointing out to a colleague that you were happy to work for two extra hours to help finish this important project, because you know how much it means to his/her prospects, you are valuing your time in your colleague’s eyes. Or you could use it to convince people that, in order to avoid having their opinion devalued, they should stop giving you free advice.”

Source: Free gift with purchase: Promoting free gifts with purchase: Promoting or discounting the brand? – Priya Raghubir – Journal of Consumer Psychology, 14(1&2), 181–185 (2004)

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