As my husband and I were watching game 7 of the World Series last night, drinking beer and throwing peanut shells all over our living room floor, I was reminded of the beer cup debacles at a couple pro stadiums earlier this year. If you missed it, both the Oaklands A’s and Qwest Field in Seattle were catching a lot of flack when it came out that the small beer cups at the stadiums held the same amount of liquid as their large cups. In the case of Qwest field, the food service provider admitted that the small cups were actually the same size as the large – 20 ounces – but a different shape. Their explanation to the public was that fans that paid $1.25 more for large beers weren’t getting screwed – just that those who purchased small beers were getting an extra good deal – 4 oz for free! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xSDI9Gg63I
It was a similar story for A’s fans, except that the 16 oz “small” beer actually held 20 oz and cost $4.99. The large beer sold for $8, and, as the video widely circulating showed, held almost the exact same amount. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70wDh9gDiAQ
From a marketing perspective – what a story! It encompasses so many of the elements we deal with every day. It’s a prime example of how price, promotion, packaging and perception can affect what we buy. How long did this go on before anyone noticed? I have a feeling this is (or hopefully past tense was) happening at ballparks and other venues across the country – and not only in beer. Were those super-size nachos really a better deal?
Perception. Fans were willing to pay for the large they assumed was bigger and better – when in reality it was the exact same thing. This concept easily translates to other products and services. There are tons of examples of identical products packaged and sold under different names and priced very differently. People are willing pay more for what they perceive is a better deal, which in reality may or may not be true.
So what does this mean to small business owners? First and foremost – don’t try to pull a fast one on your customers. It could backfire, and in today’s market it’ll be all over YouTube, Twitter, Facebook in no time.
But it’s also a good reminder of something important – pay attention to how you present your products and services. It matters. Sometimes people don’t even want to think, they want the work done for them. So if you effectively present yourself as bigger, or better or faster that your competition you can have an advantage. Just make sure your claims are true.