Pricing may decrease your value: Understanding the paradox of low pricing

Jean-Paul Evrard, Georg Krentzel, and Philippe Marmara

In a competitive market, businesses often grapple with the challenge of setting the right price for their products or services. The instinct to attract more customers through lower pricing is almost automatic. However, contrary to this widespread belief, lowering prices can sometimes decrease your value, creating a paradox where cheaper isn’t always better.

The psychology of pricing

Pricing is not just a financial decision; it's a psychological one. Customers often associate price with quality. A higher price can imply superior quality, exclusivity, and better performance, while a lower price may suggest the opposite. This phenomenon is well-documented in psychology and marketing research, where consumers perceive higher-priced items as more desirable and prestigious.

For instance, a luxury brand that suddenly slashes its prices may find its core customer base questioning the brand's value. They might wonder if the quality has diminished or if the brand is no longer as exclusive. This can lead to a loss of trust and loyalty, ultimately harming the brand more than it helps.

The perception of quality

When it comes to consumer goods, perception is reality. If a product is priced too low, potential buyers may doubt its quality, even if it’s comparable to higher-priced alternatives. This is particularly true in markets where consumers lack the expertise to judge quality directly and rely on price as a heuristic, or mental shortcut, for determining value.

For example, consider the wine industry. Studies have shown that consumers often rate the taste of wine higher when they believe it is more expensive, even if the wine is actually the same. This perception-driven value highlights how crucial it is for businesses to carefully consider the implications of their pricing strategies.

The danger of price wars

Engaging in price wars can be particularly damaging. While temporarily lowering prices might seem like a good strategy to outdo competitors, it often leads to a race to the bottom. Competitors will likely lower their prices in response, resulting in thinner margins for everyone involved. This not only diminishes profitability but also devalues the entire market.

Moreover, price wars can erode brand equity. When a company is constantly adjusting prices downward, it can convey a lack of confidence in the product’s intrinsic value. This can lead to a vicious cycle where customers expect perpetual discounts, making it difficult for the business to ever return to its original pricing structure.

Long-term value over short-term gains

Instead of focusing solely on price, businesses should emphasize the overall value proposition. This includes aspects such as quality, customer service, brand reputation, and unique features. By highlighting these elements, companies can justify a higher price point and attract customers who are willing to pay for added value.

Investing in marketing and brand building can also enhance perceived value. When customers are aware of the benefits and unique selling points of a product, they are more likely to appreciate its true worth, regardless of price. Effective communication about what sets a product apart can make a significant difference in how pricing is perceived.

Strategies for maintaining value

  1. Premium pricing: Positioning your product as a premium option can enhance perceived value. This strategy works well for high-quality, unique, or luxury items where customers expect to pay more for superior quality.
  2. Value-based pricing: Set prices based on the perceived value to the customer rather than solely on cost or competitor prices. This approach requires a deep understanding of your target market and what they value most.
  3. Bundling and packaging: Offering products in bundles or creating attractive packages can add value without lowering prices. Customers often perceive bundled offerings as a better deal, even if the price per item is higher.
  4. Enhancing customer experience: Exceptional customer service, loyalty programs, and personalized experiences can increase perceived value and justify higher prices. Customers are often willing to pay more for a better overall experience.
  5. Communicating quality: Use marketing and branding to consistently communicate the quality and unique benefits of your product. Testimonials, reviews, and endorsements can also help reinforce the perceived value.


While lowering prices might seem like a straightforward way to attract more customers, it’s important to understand that this strategy can backfire by diminishing perceived value. Businesses need to balance price with the overall value they offer, focusing on quality, customer experience, and brand strength. By doing so, they can avoid the pitfalls of price wars and maintain a strong market position, ensuring long-term success and profitability.