Price and Prejudice: Putting a Price Tag on Brand Value
Originally written for SME attribution for Quad Analytix (now Wiser Inc.), a provider of actionable online and in-store data for retail decisionmaking.
FLASH SALE! PRICES SO LOW, WE CAN’T ADVERTISE THEM!
With Black Friday and the holiday shopping season fast approaching, promotional copy like the above will soon be splashed across eCommerce sites all over the web. Holiday sales, doorbusters, and loss-leaders will lure customers looking for presents for their loved ones (or maybe themselves), and sales outlets large and small are scrambling to get an edge on their competitors.
Your resellers may assume that, by violating or skirting MAP policies, they are only doing damage to their own profit margins (damage they plan to make up elsewhere), but as a brand, you know that’s not the case. We’ve talked about Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) policies, how to enforce them, and how resellers can try to avoid compliance, because pricing and perception are closely tied. Underpricing and massive discounts on your products can have a ripple effect that, if unchecked, can harm your brand’s standing in the eyes of your larger customer base.
How are Pricing and Brand Value Related?
Pricing plays an important role in shaping consumer perceptions about a brand. While price promotions can lead to short-term gains, price wars can dilute brand value in the long-term. Managing the way pricing influences brand associations is essential for brands.
Let’s take a look at the way pricing strategy can affect brand equity, how consumers determine brand value and strategies for managing the role of price.
Pricing is a relevant differentiator. High price implies exclusivity and value (think luxury brands). But it’s not limited to high price. A brand that is consistently priced as the cheapest can have an incredibly strong position (think Amazon or Walmart).
If you saw a Louis Vuitton bag advertised at a low price, it would lose its exclusivity and desirability to their target market and the brand equity would be damaged.
Consumers would also come to expect lower prices in the future, making the brand seem expensive vs. having a justified premium, making it harder to raise prices in the future. In a similar vein, if Walmart’s prices suddenly increased, it would contradict its brand image of being a value retailer, and its brand equity would suffer.
How is Brand Value Determined
As brands consider how to manage the role of price, there are four key questions to consider.
- How is my pricing influencing brand associations?
- Are my price-brand associations optimal?
- How do I compare to my competitor’s price-brand associations?
- Does my strategy take both price and value into account?
If you can answer these questions, you’re on the right track. Now if you are a brand with a reseller network, it becomes more complicated since you have to ensure that they are complying with the pricing policies you worked so hard to put in place to protect your brand.
Protecting Your Brand Value and Reputation
In order to protect your brand reputation, your brand should equip itself with:
An important first step in securing your brand is through trademarks, patents, and copyrights. Register them within the scope that makes the most sense for your business (geographic area of operation and scope of business), keeping in mind the smaller the scope, the less the protection.
Next, put measures in place to protect your brand through restricted distribution, strong and detailed authorized retailer agreements (including a MAP policy), test buy programs, and product serialization.
Unfortunately, preventative tactics don’t always work. Make sure to have a plan in place to keep a close eye out for both authorized and unauthorized reseller pricing to identify MAP violators (ideally in a scalable, automated way), as well as counterfeit products (ideally at the B2B source).
Make sure you have resources available for legal enforcement of trademark, patent, and copyright infringements, as well as clear repercussions for MAP violators as noted in your MAP policy. Public relations campaigns highlighting brand protection efforts can also help deter violations and infringements in the future.
Brand protection encompasses so many facets―there is not one sole solution that will keep a brand safe forever. But by having the proper framework in place, you can be sure that when a threat to your brand’s value rears its ugly head, you’ll be ready for it!