Your Vocabulary and Your Wallet: Pricing in Action

Friday, February 6, 2015

I've officially become a grumpy old man. Do you know why? Yogurt. That's right. Yogurt. When I was growing up there were a few different flavors, but for the most part, yogurt was a very uninteresting food. It was basically a bunch of milk with a bit of fruit and a whole lot of bacteria.

Everyone knew what it was, but there was one big problem. Many people were uninterested in milk laced with "a whole lot of bacteria." Product sales were stalled until a marketer came up with a daring plan.

Yogurt contains bacteria
Image courtesy of Rainer Zenz

"We can make yogurt exciting!" he exclaimed. Soon "a whole lot of bacteria" gave way to "active yogurt cultures." It meant the same thing, but sounded so much nicer. People had certain unpleasant imagery in mind when they heard "bacteria," but a word like "active" conjured up only good things. Who wouldn't want to be active? In the many years since, other terms have been used, but yogurt marketeers appear to have selected "probiotics" as their preferred terminology. I would wager that very few know what it means, yet the term has become a watchword for eager consumers.

Similarly, prunes (a despised food associated with the elderly) have become dried plums (a desirable novelty). I watched in horror as the Chinese gooseberry became the melonette (and later the kiwi). Sure, such name changing has happened for many years but it's disconcerting. The great city of Byzantium was renamed Constantinople and Istanbul. St. Petersburg performed an entire circuit of renaming, changing its moniker first to Petrograd then to Leningrad and now back to St. Petersburg.

Product names and terminology can be as important (even more important) than the product itself. A simple change of description can add significant pricing power and yield tremendous returns on investment. But how, pray tell, does one decide what to change and why? Well, glad you asked! I answer those questions and more in my software pricing tome of knowledge and as part of my custom pricing advisory services.