Misleading Pricing Affects Brand Perceptions

A brand is a promise of performance. It creates an expectation in the market with current and prospective customers that it will do what it says it will do. Part of how companies communicate its brand promise or value proposition is through pricing. So it is with some dismay that I came across a flagrant pricing message that tells an awkward story about the automobile industry.

For anyone that has ever shopped and bought a new car, you can appreciate how frustrating the experience is. The industry is littered with shady dealers and sales representatives that will do and say anything to get a person to sign on the dotted line. You would think by now that dealers and manufacturers would be doing more to win the confidence of the consumer. Apparently not.

Price plays a major role in the marketing & sales effort of cars for dealers. It is prominently displayed in just about every ad in the newspaper so I was shocked to see that Ford has come up with their own version of pricing math.

In the ad below it seems that Ford and this particular dealer has come up with new math to calculate their sale price. Unfortunately it tells the wrong story about the dealer or more importantly about Ford. The problem is the math doesn’t work. When you check the math in the add somehow $250 has disappeared from the discount on the first car and $150 from the second and there’s no explanation why!

What this ad screams is that we (the dealer) can’t be trusted or we think the consumer is pretty dumb and won’t check the math. It’s an example of how pricing can send the wrong message about a dealer…..it says, we can’t be trusted. The ad could offer an unbelievable savings on the vehicle but if  the offer (promise) isn’t believable then it’s meaningless.

For pricing to be effective there needs to be transparency. Consumers today are more discerning and careful about where they spend their money. As such, if you want to win the confidence of more customers be open and straight forward. Don’t leave unanswered questions in the mind of the customer.

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