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Do you respect your customer’s intelligence?

By April 29, 20098 Comments


The wisdom of children always amazes me.

On the way to Little League practice yesterday, my six-year-old son heard a radio ad that made him ask “why?

A radio ad for two nights stay at a regional hotel for “only $950!” is what set him off.

His response:

Only $950?!! Why do they always say ‘Only $950?!’… that’s a lot of money!

By “they” he was talking about marketers, especially on the radio.

I was surprised by his passion and proud he was asking the question. But without thinking, I told him it was because that made it seem more affordable—that it would make it seem like it cost less.

His response: “But it’s $950! Saying ‘only’ doesn’t make it less.”

He was right of course, and I’ve been thinking about what he said ever since.

As marketers, we’ve ‘perfected’ copy. We know that certain words and phrases will improve lift.

But are using words like “only” before a price really respecting the intelligence of your audience?

My kindergartener says no, but what do you think?

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Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • The sad truth of the matter is that words like ‘only’ or ‘just’ do work to emphasise that the audience should consider this a ‘deal’ and worth their consideration. As marketers writing copy it’s tempting to go with those words to try and give the offer some lift – others include ‘less than’ or ‘now only’ and ‘under’ – when the price really isn’t that special.

  • I’ll assume that the practice is effective since ist is so prevalent (I couldn’t find any research that proved otherwise). This strikes me hard then : most people are not as quick on their feet as your son.
    Pitty. Yet he is soooo right.

  • trrjsmartin says:

    Wise kid! Maybe we need to think in basics, and we’ll get the whole real picture.

  • Missy says:

    I would expect to use “only” when referring to something that is indeed a reduced price. I’ll start paying closer attention to that now!

  • Kids just don’t play the BS games we’ve gotten used to thinking we have to play, do they?

    Here’s to more of them reminding more of us we don’t have to play them either…

  • OMPundit says:

    I agree it was a good pick-up on a marketing technique, but there is no context to the Ad. If the regional hotel is fairly well known, maybe it’s a 5 star hotel with some truly amazing services, that normally goes for $1500 for a two night stay, then the “only $950” would seem entirely inline and a great call to action, especially for people who know of this hotel. Otherwise the “only” would just be marketing fluff which irritates me too!

  • Larissa says:

    Your son is clever.

    Saying only in front of a price reduces the value of what you want to get payed for. Why should people pay the higher price the next time? It seems you can afford it to sell it for this price. So I will start negotiating it, because it might be still to high.

    And I will look if there is something which makes the offer expensive for me. There might be something with it which I don´t want.

    Anyhow I am sceptic about the offer.

  • You’ve got a smart kid on your hands, good luck when he’s a teenager he will be questioning everything you say. To the point, I think many companies assume their customers are unintelligent and sometimes they have a point, but you must respect your potential clients. I think instead of making an ad that sounds like a value, businesses should actually provide a value and give the consumer a reason to buy. If this is not possible for some businesses then they should ensure the consumer that the product or service is of better quality, therefore, more expensive yet worth it.

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