A business can easily charge more when a person super-sizes their meal. Yet it's not so easy for companies that charge more due to a person's size. And a company can charge higher fees for users needing more bandwidth when hosting multiple Web sites. But it becomes very tricky when a company scales its prices according to personal width.
One certainly pays more for an SUV than a hatchback because the SUV isn't only richer in features, it's more robust due to its sheer mass. And we don't mind paying more for products that are of a genuine (or perceived) higher quality than those of lower stature– just look at the price of any branded product on your local supermarket shelf compared to the generic one it's stacked next to.
In air travel, people now have to pay a premium when toting more of their stuff on the plane, or they get a discount for not using as much cargo space with their luggage. And while that has outraged some, it's nothing compared to the heat airlines are facing in attempting to charge a higher price of plus-sized passengers that need more than one seat during their flights–even though that airline only has so many seats to sell during any given flight, and cannot otherwise recoup those costs and losses.
And that brings us to the recent debacle on boobs. Or, more specifically, the pricing of some bras supporting them.
British retailer Marks & Spencer, known for its reasonably priced lingerie, began charging more–as much as $3 USD more–for bras sized DD and up. And women balked, even took their plight to Facebook with their "Busts 4 Justice" campaign. The women behind the site argued that other retailers did not charge more for bigger sizes so Marks & Spencer shouldn't either. Further fueling their argument, they noted that the store didn't charge more for larger clothing sizes so the same should hold true for their undergarments.
In relenting to the female fury, the retailer just announced it will now price all its bras the same, and is wisely running a VERY clever campaign admitting "We Boobed.", as well offering a further 25% off all bras for the month of May.
It's true that when I buy a medium-size blouse I do not pay more than a woman buying a small-sized one– or less than a woman buying one in a large size. Same thing with shoes, no matter the foot size, the shoes cost the same, even though boots in a size 8 absolutely necessitate more high-priced leather than ones in, say, a size 5.
Take my Editor here at MarketingProfs, Ann Handley. While I look up to Ann for her professionalism and prowess--at just 5'4" with a petite frame--I literally look down at her due to my standing at 5'8" (add a couple inches when in heels) with an average-size frame. And while I'd love nothing more than for she and I to take a day off from all this marketing gab and go on a shopping spree, I'd likely feel odd, perhaps even feel badly, if we both loved the same style dress, but when at the register I was required to pay more for mine in a medium to hers in a petite. Even though I'm otherwise content with my size and height.
And that bad feeling of mine? More likely than not, it would be transferred to the brand itself.
So, what's my point? That with some products where simple logic (and basic economics) dictates that a dress, blouse or bra in a larger size necessitates more material--and thus costs more to produce–simply doesn't apply with our markets. Nope, in these instances, facts give way to feelings. Even though the fact is that many people would save money if certain products were priced by size, in companies not doing so, feelings are spared across the board.
And feelings win over facts much of the time in marketing. We usually label it perception and we work for our markets to buy into the perceptions that we craft and the emotions we work hard to tie to our brands. Yet in these instances, the perception is not a strategy that marketers can create, it's something our markets decide and we must heed accordingly.
It's one thing when the product is "separate" from our person, like a super-sized meal, SUV or branded product. Yet it's quite another thing entirely when the product is either worn on our person (like bras) or is priced differently due to our personal size (like airplane seats). And those brands that ruffle our sensitivities with size-based pricing? They can end up paying dearly– just ask Marks & Spencer who are taking a cut in profits this month due to the bra boycott (though in the long-term, the shopping incentive from the discount matched with the publicity yielded from the campaign will probably more than make up for the retailer's short-term losses by winning back customers and attracting new ones).
In the future, it's altogether likely that personal size-based pricing models will evolve and could even become commonplace. But in the interim, brands using these pricing tactics are going to be met with some mighty--one could even say busty!--backlash. All told, we best pay close attention to our market's sensitivities or we may just find that our brands have boobed, too.
Take the first step (it's free).
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