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Seven Reasons Why Leading With Price Will Kill Your Advertising, Your Branded Offers—and Your Company

by Dan Hill  |  
November 9, 2010

In this article, you'll learn why...

  • Discounting isn't sustainable
  • A low-price strategy kills customer loyalty
  • A brand on sale undermines trust

The following article is drawn from Dan Hill's new book, About Face: The Secrets of Emotionally Effective Advertising (October 2010, Kogan Page).

Nowhere in marketing today do emotions run hotter than in advertising that highlights the role of (low) prices.

In boardrooms everywhere, one can imagine what's being said: We need to make some money fast, so let's lower our prices and let everybody know. So CEOs and CFOs carry the day while CMOs beat a quick retreat to inform their ad agencies.

But the thing is... it's a bad idea to lead with price in advertising.

First, discounting, especially repeatedly, isn't sustainable. One of the key advantages of a sale is the element of surprise. How does surprise register on people's faces? Their eyes go wide, and their mouths fall open; it's nature's way of saying shut up and notice the world around you.

Surprise aids stopping power in advertising, but surprise fades when you use the reduced-price trick repeatedly.

Second, surprise is really a pre-emotion. It's brief (less than a second long) and it's followed by a verdict: either a positive "Wow!" or a negative "Yikes!" Repetitive low pricing leads to expectations of future low prices, desensitization, and the impossibility of creating a "Wow" response.

Shopper research has shown that seeing any price tag causes disgust. Instinctively, people don't like giving up their money. So creating more delight regarding the offer and generating allure that exceeds feelings of disgust about surrendering cash are what make a positive purchasing experience.

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Dan Hill is the founding president of the research firm Sensory Logic Inc., ( and the author of Emotionomics: Leveraging Emotions for Business Success. His latest book is About Face: The Secrets of Emotionally Effective Advertising. Both are available from UK publisher Kogan Page.

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  • by StarsDie Thu Nov 11, 2010 via web

    Very well put, all points are absolute truth.
    Some MDs just push Sales and Marketing to lower prices or even make a permanent sale of some goods just to gain fast money, and they don't care of what's happening next to the brand. Finally, people already know that cheap doesn't mean good. "Cheap" in quality products should be cheap in price, too. And if the products are of a high quality, they should cost correspondingly. Some special offers once in a while are okay, and they provide exactly that feeling of "surprise" the author is emphasizing. But not a permanent state of sale.
    Thank you for the article.

  • by Richard Rubin Thu Nov 11, 2010 via web

    I completely agree. Thank you for sharing the compelling insights.

  • by Brant Kelsey Fri Nov 12, 2010 via web

    Two points.

    You'll NEVER win a price war. There's always somebody cheaper out there. (Walmart)


    Commodities trade on price. If all you hang your hat on is lowest price, you're a commodity.

    Great article!

  • by Greg Timpany Mon Nov 15, 2010 via web

    I saw the "price as lead offer" consisntly while working in circulation at the Los Angeles Times. Invariably it lead to subscribers that cancelled their subscriptions sooner than they would have been expected to. In other engagements I have seen the same "devaluing" effect of consistent price discounting.

    Price discounting is a tactic best used sparingly!


  • by Michael Goodman Tue Nov 30, 2010 via web

    The price you charge is the ultimate expression of what you think your product or service is worth. That's why Pricing is one of the 4 Ps in the MARKETING Mix.

    When you discount the price, you're telling your customers that the product isn't really worth what you've been charging them all this time.

  • by Mike Goldstein Sun Dec 19, 2010 via web

    I really appreciate your ability to break a the issue and phrase it in a more understandable way. Well done!

  • by salman Wed Apr 3, 2013 via web

    Couldn't be more agree

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