In Chapter 9 of Essentials of Marketing we talk about the new product development process. In the article “Facial gestures can move this AI-motorized wheelchair“, many elements of this process are covered when discussing a new motorized wheelchair that uses a 3D camera and artificial intelligence to recognize facial expressions and control the wheelchair based on those expressions. The new wheelchair is designed by Brazilian-based Hoobox Robotics in partnership with Intel. The article covers the target market for the new chair and also talks about some of the interesting findings discovered during user testing. It also talks about incentives to get customer feedback and an interesting pricing model (they’re planning on using subscription pricing rather than the traditional asset sale model). It’s a good reminder for students that even products that are highly technical require well managed marketing efforts if they want maximize their chance at success.
Jet Blue and United Airlines recently raised their checked baggage fees from $25 to $30 for the first bag checked (see this article to read more). Just 10 years ago checked baggage fees were unheard of but they are the norm today and airlines are increasingly looking for ways to add charges and fees to improve their bottom line. Air travel is basically commoditized and, as a result, leisure travelers tend to search for the lowest price when booking travel. This significantly hurt airline profitability until they started charging additional fees for checked bags, carry-on bags, early check-in, seat reservation, leg room, in-flight snacks, entertainment, and more. Now airlines can benefit from the high margin they get on these fees yet still advertise low fares.
This topic presents numerous angles for a conversation with students. Is it ethical for airlines to advertise low prices when the end price a consumer will pay will likely be significantly higher? Why were the airlines able to enact this trend in adding supplemental charges? i.e. if one airline started charging for checked bags, why didn’t others push free bags as a differentiator? How does the airline industry’s status as an oligopoly affect this market dynamic? How do business travel and loyalty programs make it easier for airlines to push price increases like this?
The video linked here is a short 3 minute video sourced from NPR’s Planet Money. It provides a brief, entertaining perspective on the history of the price tag. Students may be surprised to know that haggling was standard practice in this country for many years. The video does a good job of discussing not only the change itself but also various factors that led to the change – ethical considerations and issues with scale.
Dating app Tinder was recently found guilty of age discrimination based on their pricing policies. Tinder charges individuals over 30 twice the price they charge those under 30 for their premium service, Tinder Plus. Their rationale was that younger people have less money to spend but the court said that older members can be budget constrained as well. You can read more about the issue in this Slate article. Tinder argued that companies like Amazon do the same thing (with a lower price for Prime membership for students) but there’s an important distinction. Ask your students why what Amazon does is legal and what Tinder does is not. The key is the concept of protected classes. Amazon provides their discount based on status as a student. While most students are younger, there can be older students as well. Most importantly, “student” is not a government recognized protected class whereas age, race, sex, etc. are recognized as protected classes and subject to discriminating scrutiny.
Smartphones revolutionized the world and it wasn’t long after the first smartphone was released that everyone wanted one of their own. For years, smartphone manufacturers were able to capitalize on unmet demand but as the product-market reached maturity and demand became saturated, manufacturers needed to find ways to entice users to upgrade in order to protect their new revenue stream.
The classic approach in technology is to release new versions of products. If a manufacturer delivers enough added value with the new release, existing consumers will be willing to buy the new product to replace their old one. But how much is necessary to entice consumers to upgrade? That answer is dependent on several factors that influence consumer buying behavior. These influences are reviewed in detail in Chapter 5 – Final Consumers and Their Buying Behavior.
This article, “Your Next Phone Will Probably Cost $1000“, talks about the latest generation of smartphones to hit the market and the various influences that will determine their success or failure. In particular, the article notes that this is the first generation of products to pass the $1000 price barrier. The article suggests that surpassing that psychologically significant price barrier may slow adoption of the new line of phones.
Ask your students how many have purchased or intend to purchase one of these new phones, when they purchased (or intend to purchase), and why they chose to upgrade. This can lead to a good discussion regarding all of the influences that impact that purchasing decision. Some will choose to buy primarily because of psychological social needs – the desire for status or acceptance from peers. Others will apply a more economic assessment. Those individuals may justify the purchase based on faster performance, larger screen sizes, new features, etc. A full discussion of the various factors that influence consumer purchasing behavior is covered in Chapter 5 – Final Customers and Their Buying Behavior.
This conversation can also apply when covering the adoption curve discussed in Chapter 13. In any given classroom you’re likely to have students that can be classified as members of the early adopters and early majority segments of the adoption curve but you may also have members of other segments. Asking students from each group how they make decisions about when to buy can really help illustrate the differences between segments.