MSRP? More Like Manufacturer's Suggested Ripoff Price!
When I was in college, most classmates I knew had problems waking up for early classes. They’d tend to wait until the very last moment before groggily denying an ethereal Abraham Lincoln one more match of Hungry Hungry Hippos, leaving dreamland and making their way to the shower. After showing up late to a couple classes, a common method of “solving” this procrastination problem was to simply set the time on their alarm clock 5 minutes early. The theory was, that even if their alarm clock said that they were late, there would actually be an extra 5 minutes to get to class. Problem solved, right?
As anyone who’s tried this knows, the glowing digits on that alarm clock cannot fool your sleepy brain when it’s determined to play one last round with Honest Abe. As your 5-minute preset changes to 10 and then to 20 minutes, you eventually realize that you are just making it difficult on yourself. By blurring the concept of time, it’s ceased to be useful. This may be one of those universal life lessons, like “touching the stove hurts” or “gorging on sweets makes you sick” or “when the orangutan at the zoo offers you a cloth ‘goodie’ bag, it WILL be filled with poo.”
So why do marketers seem to never learn this lesson? When it comes to pricing and sales strategies, marketers seem to have decided that it will work to “adjust the alarm clock.” In other words, they simply call their normal pricing a “sales” price. There was probably a time in the past when the MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) actually meant what it said.
These days it seems like the MSRP is merely used as a marketing gimmick. Just like adjusting the alarm clock, this may have worked in the short term. However, consumers have caught on. Everyone knows that if you’re ever paying MSRP, you’re being ripped off. So what use is it?
The idea for this article was sparked when I got a direct mail piece that promised I could trade in my car for double the Kelley Blue Book price. Now, maybe Kelley Blue Book pricing is still legitimate; however, because I’ve seen car dealerships abuse the concept of “sales” for so long, my marketing scam detector started flashing firetruck red.
If I can’t trust dealers, and they are using Kelley Blue Book pricing as a marketing gimmick, then maybe Kelley Blue Book numbers aren’t the valid measure of real-world pricing that they purport to be.
See how this works?
If I could control worldwide marketing strategy like a puppet master controlling a tiny Hungry Hungry Hippos-savvy Abe Lincoln, I’d do what every college student eventually does: turn the alarm clock back to the real time and just learn to get your lazy carcass out of bed. Blurring real-world measurements and pricing is a sure-fire way to teach your customers that your credibility is worth about as much as a cloth “goodie bag” from an orangutan.
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