Why Low-Cost Products Need to be Perceived as Affordable and Not Cheap

Controlling a brand’s image is one of the major goals of any marketer selling named products as it offers many advantages including making a product stand out from other products, creating a more loyal customer base and, most important, building brand equity. We have noted the importance of establishing a recognizable brand name many times. For instance, last year we looked at how providers of medical marijuana face branding decisions as a way to separate their products from a rapidly growing group of competitors. And a few weeks ago we reported on how the need for building strong brands has led to a growing market for services hired to create unique brand names.

However, for all the work marketers do to control a brand’s image, success often comes down to one thing – how customers perceive a brand. That is, what is the first thing that comes to customers’ minds when they hear a brand’s name or are exposed to it visually (e.g., see image, see actual product). One of the best ways to measure this is to ask customers simply: “What word describes Brand X?” Obviously the type of responses will be varied, such as describing a brand as innovative, ugly, strong, unreliable, etc. While there are certainly hundreds of terms people will use to describe a product, one that most marketers do not want to hear is “cheap.”

As discussed in this Entrepreneur Magazine story, marketers need to steer clear from having customers think of their brand as being cheap. Instead, marketers with low price products should create a marketing strategy in which their product is thought to be “affordable.” As discussed, the difference is that products perceived as cheap may also be viewed as lacking value, that is, you get what you pay for and with cheap products that is not much. Alternatively, in customers’ minds, they are getting their money’s worth and maybe a little more with products perceived as affordable. In other words, positioning a product so it is perceived as being affordable places a brand in a much stronger position than if it is being viewed as cheap.

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