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Why focusing on price reduces urgency

What matters most - your price or your brand? If you're continually offering promotions - like Charles Tyrwhitt - you risk making purchases less urgent. I call it the MFI trap...

Every now and again, I buy some new shirts. Like most men, I suppose. I only have so much room in the wardrobe, and if a shirt starts to look like it would act better as a smock for my daughter’s art class, out it goes, and a new one takes it place.

A year or two ago, I bought a couple of shirts from Charles Tyrwhitt online. They were good shirts, I suppose. They haven’t started on the descent to art-class smock, so they’ve passed the longevity test.

Charles Tyrwhitt are in touch more or less every day, offering me £20 off, 25% off, two for one, three for two, £15 off… you name it, they’ve made an offer on it.

But I haven’t bought from them since that first purchase. Are they doing something wrong?

They’ve entered what I call the MFI trap.

When I was a kid, there was no Ikea, there was only MFI, your local plasterboard flatpack furniture hell, and my parents simply had to go there. I guess that in Blackpool, once you’re done with the pleasure beach, there’s nowhere else to go.

The one thing I remember – apart from the awfulness of everything – was that MFI always had a sale on. Yes, perceptive marketers are born young.

Surely it’s not a sale if you’ve always got a sale on? And what happens when you haven't got a sale on? We all wait for the sale to come back, and you're trapped in a loop.

Charles Tyrwhitt might make very good shirts, but the constant wave of offers leaves me thinking that something better might come around the corner. Or, worse, that I don’t have to buy now because that offer isn’t really a one-off, it’s a permanent offer disguised as marketing.

Pushing out offers, coupons and promotions is like a sugar hit. It works, for a while. And then you're hooked. Take the sugar away, however, and you struggle because you've been depending on sugar for your hit for so long.

Like moving to a sugar-free lifestyle, you need to work at weaning yourself - and your customers - off it.

So what should they do instead?

The focus on price turns my head, and makes me focus on price. In fact, it has become my only consideration with Charles Tyrwhitt, because it’s all they talk about. And that’s a shame.

They need to change the conversation. A little study into their market might reveal that everyone is like me (how unfortunate). Therefore, they go to work, they meet clients, they need to wear a good shirt. Not a cheap shirt, not a 20% off shirt, but a good one.

Perhaps one that doesn’t require too much ironing, or one that stands out from the crowd? Or one that won’t turn into your daughter’s art class smock within 6 months?

By focusing on the value, and what it means to me, you change the way I think about the brand. It goes from a transactional, price-based consideration to a value-based, lifestyle consideration. And that way, you can worm your way into your customers’ mindsets at different points in the year, without devaluing your product.

We are clever consumers now. We’re very price-sensitive, and we know when a sale’s not a sale. That makes it very hard to sell anything at full price and to make the margin you should be making.

Focus on building the brand and demonstrating the value you add to peoples’ lives, rather than your price, and you’ll find people are incredibly loyal.

about Gareth Cartman

Gareth has worked in search since the early days of Google. His background is in HR, marketing and technology, and as CLD's Director of Digital Marketing, he helps clients develop content and search strategies that deliver better rankings, traffic and ultimately, more leads.

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