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DisciplinesMarketing > Pricing > Free

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Give things away. Emphasize the word, 'free'. Show that you are generous, thoughtful and kind. And in doing so, find ways that you can also benefit.

You can give away all kinds of things, including:

  • Cut-down products (perhaps with a paid-for upgrade path).
  • Full-strength products (that impress customers who will like you more and want to buy from you in the future).
  • Information about anything that customers may value, from products, to training in product use to non-related information.
  • Service by real people, from installation to phone support.

Ways to give things away free include:

  • As an extra 'gift' when customers are already buying something else.
  • Just as a hand-out, without conditions.
  • In the street, to passing shoppers.
  • Online, as a free download (perhaps in exchange for contact details).
  • As a 'free start', with charges only starting at a later date.


At a concert, a band gives away flashing lights to be waved about by audience members, thereby intensifying the experience and building their fan base.

Much of the web offers free information (including this site), but uses the attention gained to serve advertising, sell books and so on.

A food company selling a new product gives away samples in the streets and in supermarkets.


In practice, few things are truly free. Even when there are no strings attached, there is a psychological effect of social exchange, whereby your receiving something free makes you feel obliged to give something in return, such as a purchase of further items.

Why would you want to give something away free? Here are a number of reasons:

  • To increase brand attention, awareness and appreciation.
  • To get rid of excess stock, freeing up storage space and reducing recycling costs.
  • To get publicity (giving things away can be newsworthy).
  • To let people try out a product that they may later want to buy.
  • To get contact information which you can later use to sell more.
  • To get customers in front of you, so you can talk one-to-one with them.

In what has been called the 'free' economy, things are given away in order to gain attention, publicity and customers. This has particularly been true of start-ups who want to rapidly build a customer base so they can appear valuable and go public with an IPO where they may be valued at millions or more.

Sometimes customers expect things to be free, such as installation support, especially when this is a norm within the marketplace, and not giving this free can lead to significant dissatisfaction.

There is a danger in giving things away as they may not be valued. Remember the price-quality heuristic, where price is equated to quality. Something that is free could hence be seen as being worth nothing. Your brand could also suffer as being essentially valueless. You could also start a dynamic where people expect and wait for things to be free. In this ways, giving things away can end up in you selling less and even going out of business. And yet, if you pay attention to the notes above, you can ultimately profit more with a little generosity.

See also

The Price-Quality Heuristic


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