Key excerpt on Decoy Pricing from: “TechCrunch: The Subplots Of The iPad”

TechCrunch writes in The Subplots Of The iPad Blockbuster:

As I laid out a few weeks ago, it seems pretty likely that it was Apple that leaked much of the information to The Wall Street Journal about the tablet device prior to its launch — including the bogus $1,000 price from “analysts.” Later, a former Apple employee corroborated this.

Why would they do this? It’s simple. As I said at the time, if they plant the idea in peoples’ minds that a product will be $1,000, then release it for significantly cheaper, it’s a huge win for Apple. So when Jobs announced the entry-level iPad would be $499 yesterday, it was an absolute home run.

I have said for a good while that Apple is purposefully leaking "information" (mixed with misinformation) in just the right doses and intervals to keep the launch mania pot stewing, ending in a rolling boil crescendo right at launch.

(See: The Apple Tablet And Planned Insanity and as early as 8/08: Apple’s "Magician" Archetype Branding Revisited: Good News – Bad News .)

Now when it comes to seeding these price point speculations, they added yet another twist I’ve previously reported on: Decoy Offers or Decoy Pricing.

What it boils down to is that since all price perceptions are relative to a given context (ALL meaning arises in context by the way), if you can create a context where the price point at which you eventually offer something appears low, you will sell a lot more.

To quote my prior post:

Dan Ariely’s excellent "Predictably Irrational" talks about such contextual "decoy offers" that can boost sales for the item the seller really wants people to buy. As an example he uses a past offer by british business magazine The Economist:

It had listed $59 for on-line access only, $125 for print-only, and $125 for print & Web combo subscriptions, and had thereby significantly boosted the number of the expensive combo subscriptions sold (vs. test offers that omitted the seemingly non-sensical $125 print-only option)!

Obviously Apple just took things a step further: Since the Decoy Offer is not expected to be taken by anyone, it really doesn’t matter if you ever really formally write it up anywhere. Just introduce a high price point via a leak and nurture it (by not disputing the rumors) for a while, then triumphantly announce that the thing is actually going to cost HALF that.

If there had been no context of the prior (seeded) expectations, then the announcement of the entry-level iPad costing $499 would have been only referenced against other things in the consumer’s/prospect’s (that includes you!) mind:

Prices for other electronics items, other computers, other Apple products, asf. And the comparison may not have been favorable, or, a wash (no signal one way or the other).

Instead it was compared to a price point that for many months had already been talked about by all and sundry as reasonable, maybe high, yes, but definitely in the realm of the possible.

The expectation that the iPad was going to be a rather expensive and substantive device became more and more firmly established in people’s minds everyday this way. Now if you announce it at HALF, everybody’s knee-jerk reaction becomes: "This is a bargain!"

One more thing that Apple pulled off here is to establish the low $499 entry-level price as an ANCHOR price to pull this stunt off. Even though most people will spend substantially more for the iPad they really want, with 3G wireless and not just Wifi, and with more memory storage.

I doubt apple expects to ship too many of the $499 iPads. In essence, they created yet another decoy offer!

Writes TheNextWeb in I Call It The iLetdown – Why The iPad Missed The Mark And Blew Its Big Day:

Getting right into it, the lowest price for the iPad point is a mirage. A non-expandable device that has a total of 16 gigabytes of storage? Assuming a usable 15 gigabytes of space, I can fit less than a third of my music onto the device. Excellent. And zero percent of my photos. And videos. And apps, of course. So to say that Apple has created a mass market tablet for $500 is a little disingenuous.

So really what we have here is a Double Decoy, so to speak…

UPDATE: Google Changes Game For YouTube Monetization – Opportunities And Pitfalls

As I reported yesterday, Google may have just changed the game re: monetization of its massively used (but so far barely profitable) YouTube video sharing service. Get the details on how it looks here.

But what makes Google’s new "sponsored videos" feature on YouTube even more relevant is today’s news that YouTube searches now represent the second largest search engine in the world according to ComScore, ahead of both Yahoo and Microsoft’s MSN/Live! So there should be ample room for YouTube to generate profits for advertisers and in turn for itself (Silicon Alley Insider estimates that it could add $1B to Google’s bottom line).

However, as I began to lay out yesterday, there are a number of caveats that need to be kept in mind by the internet marketer looking to take advantage of this opportunity:

1) Marketing within Social Media (vs. search ads PPC) is generally tricky due to a deeply rooted differentiation by most people between social and business contexts: People don’t like them mixed, and can react very negatively if they are (read Dan Ariely’s excellent "Predictably Irrational", chapter 4 "The Cost of Social Norms").

2) So if you are going to market in any social context, you need to get the tone and the context just right, else you are not only wasting your ads, you are likely hurting your brand. The backlash may also be much stronger than in other situations, because you will be dealing with a perceived violation of social trust.

Whatever initial offer you make needs to still fit into the "friends" context somehow, or else be so targeted that the prospect truly sees your offer as a form of "friendly service", e.g. if you are offering something that would help with a social task they are about to undertake, like offering flowers at a special price if someone is surmised to be going on a date, etc. (judging from e.g. a Facebook "action" of theirs).

3) While YouTube is overtly the least directly social (compared to say Facebook, etc.) and instead more entertainment oriented, the social aspect of sending/receiving video clip links to/from your friends is still clearly there. So to stay in tune with the viewer/prospect, you still need to get the CONTEXT just right:

If the search keyword (or individual video for that matter) is an entertainment vehicle first-and-foremost, then offer them more (hopefully related) ENTERTAINMENT products, NOT shoes or cars or deodorant. This goes for pre- or post-roll ads as well by the way, which prospects tend to gladly view IF they have something to do with the actual video content requested.

With more educational keywords/videos, there may be more latitude to offer things, though they still need to be related and represent a LOGICAL follow-up, else your sponsored video will get largely ignored/filtered out by the prospect just like most other ads (even though, as I said yesterday, Google appears to be embedding the ads very discretely, so that they don’t scream "ad" vis-a-vis the other video content).

So the formula would be, create videos that are highly relevant to your keywords, while also being disruptive enough to get attention.

The Financial Crisis And Human Psychology: Cutting Off Your Nose To…

MIT Professor and behavioral economist Dan Ariely (who’s excellent book “Predictably Irrational” I have referenced or quoted a number of times on this blog in recent months) was interviewed via phone on CNBC a few days ago, and he pointed out something very significant:

When social trust is violated, as has been very broadly and shockingly the case over the last month or so, the instinctive psychological reaction of human beings is revenge.

And while that may still sound rather pedestrian, the corrolary is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Because the emotional state of revenge includes an element that says, “we want to hurt the perpetrator(s) of this breach of social trust, EVEN if it ends up hurting us in the process.”

If you take this to be the definition of revenge in contrast to say “normal” anger or even rage – which do not include this self-destructive element outright, though they may of course often go down a similar path -, then it is clear why our instinctive response to this financial crisis and the various remedies such as bailouts (whether they be perceived or actual) is so dangerous:

We are literally prepared to undergo further pain personally, if only there could be revenge taken on the “greedy Wall Street executives” et al. by letting their companies go under, and so forth. The sentiment is very much like that captured in the old proverb: Cutting off your nose to spite your face.

I am not trying to make an economic or political case either for or against anything that has been going on since at least September 15 (though there is much to be in disbelief or even cynical about), but the reality is that revenge (or anger) is a very poor basis from which to operate or from which to make important decisions for your business, your loved ones, or yourself. Because it clouds our judgment.

If you have any means to do so (Business Mind Hacks coaching is one of the ways), it would best to let go off the anger and/or feelings of revenge, or to at least set them aside while you are trying to make important decisions or take important actions.

Best wishes in “interesting times”
– Alex Schleber