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May 07, 2004


hugh macleod

Take 2 bottles of bogstandard American beer. One's got great advertising (lizards and stuff), one's got something far less memorable.

Seth, do you think "advertising" can be the free prize?

Jonathan Washburn

I think a way to corkscrew down to the free prize is to walk through the purchasing decision of a car buyer.
1. Commodity: I need to buy transportation – This includes all cars, motorcycles, and trucks.
2. Branding / Positioning: I need to buy safe transportation – This includes a handful of autos that the consumer has been told is safe.
3. Quality: This is where a buyer will read the reviews and determine that only 3-4 cars that he has been told are safe actually meet his quality minimums.
4. The Free Prize: At this point he has four perfectly good cars to choose from. All rate “very good” in standard safety ratings. But he makes his buying decision because his test drive was a Volvo sponsored two hour performance/safety driving course where he learned not only how to be an all around more skilled and safe driver, but how to apply those new skills specifically with his new prospective Volvo. When he completes the class he is given an official Expert Volvo Safety & Performance Driver “sticker” to be placed on the windshield of his new Volvo. So now he can’t even consider purchasing another brand of car, even if that car is just as good, because in an unspoken sort of way the other brand of car will be less safe because he will not be an expert in the operation of that vehicle.
Note: This isn’t a perfect free prize because it wasn’t really built into the development of the car, but theoretically would be an afterthought done by a marketing department. Even through it didn’t relate to my example, a more perfect auto safety related Free Prize would be the First-Aid kit provided in the Nissan Xterra. The First-Aid kit doesn’t so much make the vehicle more safe, but due to the “built in bulge” in the back of the truck it tells everyone else that you need that extra protection as a result of your adventurous life. I know when the Xterra first came out I would have killed for it just because of the implications of that First-Aid kit and the huge sports rack.


I wonder how many people buy cars based on claims that either the car manufacturer, or dealership, claims to be #1?

The airwaves are syrup-thick with claims of being "#1", so for me it's all white noise anymore.

They just have to be reliable ENOUGH.

I disagree. Volvo doesn't *have* to be reliable in the slightest.

I can think that Pepsi tastes like rat poison, but that won't stop them from pushing "taste" in their ads.

And not to completely pile on to this statement, but "reliable" how? Meaning it will get me from A to B, forever? That I can drive up a 75 degree angle without slipping? That I can leave the lights on for three days and the engine will still turn over?

Without any solid definition, any claim can be technically accurate, no?

jennifer rice

OK, great point. Make it easy for customers to talk about the core benefit, whether it's objectively 'the best' or not. And that's where the Free Prize comes in.

seth godin

Sorry, but I disagree about your Volvo example.Volvo DOESN'T have to be the most reliable car in order to focus their message on reliability. They just have to be reliable ENOUGH. What they do have to do, though, is make it easy for customers to talk about how reliable their car is!

When volvos were ugly, it was easy to talk about how safe they were. "Yeah, it's ugly, but it's safe! I care about my kids. You, you jerk, you're driving a beautiful care but endangering your family's life every single day!"

In other words, a successful brand delivers the free prize of self-gratification, the feeling we enjoy when we get to talk about why we did what we did.

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