Villing & Company

Marketing Freeconomics

In the past week several events have caused me to ponder the true value of creative services, especially as they relate to marketing. The first was a panel discussion we had at our local American Marketing Association chapter on the role of creativity in marketing. Despite the diversity of job functions and perspectives represented by the panelists, on the subject of the commoditization of creative services, they were surprisingly unanimous in the belief that "you get what you pay for." Those in attendance seemed to agree.

Just yesterday, a long-time friend and professional photographer, Art Hansen, shared this link with me. The article cites some sophisticated research that professionally generated photographs were more powerful, memorable and engaging than user-generated images.

I know these examples fly in the face of many conventional practices and beliefs. Some marketers swear the free websites, $50 logos and crowd sourced design services you can get online these days are of very high quality and may have been generated by very talented individuals. And just a few years ago, Chris Anderson, editor of Wired Magazine, wrote a book entitled "Free, the Future of a Radical Price" in which he makes the case that "... in many instances businesses can profit more from giving things away than they can by charging for them." One can infer from this position that the consumer or end-user is the ultimate winner in this game of freeconomics.

Chris Anderson is certainly much smarter than I am and who am I to argue against conventional wisdom. I only know what I have learned from experience, beginning with the words of my father who said there was no such thing as a free lunch.

To me the issue comes down to "settling." For marketers who believe that "good enough is good enough", I suppose there is no reason to spend more than is absolutely necessary to reach that modest standard. Where discounted services come up short in my mind is they fail to be produced within the context of a defined strategy. Lacking strategy, everything just comes down to a random assortment of tactics. And if you don't care enough about winning to have a strategic game plan, you may as well play with the cheapest ball you can find.

Filed Under: general

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