Download: Are Marketing Offers Really Free?
The touchy subject of whether anything worthwhile can ever be free, came up whilst I was re-evaluating the marketing strategy for Webmobyle. We often see offers being made by businesses, with a claim that you may acquire something for free. Is this true, or even realistic?
The real concern that will lead most of us to raise this question, is that we are all so acutely aware of the significance of value. The concept of value, makes us think in terms of exchanging valuable things with other similarly valuable items. And when we see no such exchange of value in an interaction, we are prone to deem the exchange worthless.
To use an analogy, supposing I give you a car which is run-down, and will cost more to repair than it’s worth for free. In this case, according to your sense of value, you will not feel that this is a worthwhile gift, and throw it right back in my face, even if you might do so politely. But is this analogy applicable in all cases?
Nothing in life is for free, some argue, and I tend to agree with this sentiment in some cases. When this statement is made, the understanding, is that in a value based system, we exchange value and therefore seek it in all exchanges. Be careful, however, to avoid the mistake of thinking in terms of currency, or physical goods all the time.
We exchange value in various ways apart from through money, or exchange of goods or services. Value can also be derived in other ways that encompass the concepts of time, effort, and attention. Even if you do not make a payment, or exert yourself, you can exchange value by simply spending time on something, with someone, or by paying attention to something, or someone.
Fairly considered, the statement that says nothing is for free is mainly applicable in economic exchanges, where goods and services are being traded. In these cases, either party in the transaction is expecting to find value, for which the other party will need to be fairly and adequately compensated. Particularly note that, like stated before, this compensation does not have to take the form of currency.
Whilst it is impossible to get anything for free in the economic sense, it is absolutely possible to acquire some things of value, at no direct cost to yourself. After all, someone also did say that, the best things in life are free. Examples of free things can take many forms from the air we breathe, to certain types of software. All of considerable value.
One very good example of situations where nothing is really for free, is in situations you will often find in marketing promotions by certain businesses. In these scenarios, a business will make you an offer, and tell you that you are getting something for free.
As much as you would like to believe this, this is simply not the case. It is more accurate for such businesses to say they are offering you something complementary, or use some other less misleading language.
When you get such a “free” offer, there is always one way or another, through which you are paying for it. Even if it is not so obvious. Often, the business making the offer to you, is primarily interested in your engagement with them, and your time and the attention you give their product or brand. Your participation ends up becoming your payment to the business, in the form of the time and attention you provide.
Sometimes, you get offers that are similar to, buy one, get one free. Here, the business making the offer is trying to get you to buy their product. And yes, it is an incredible deal, but the business has already calculated, that this offer will enable them make up for any apparent loss through high sales volumes, as a result of the offer.
The answer to the question of whether anything worthwhile can ever be free, is not a simple one, and no single answer can be provided that is satisfactory.
Depending on what situation you are dealing with, you can get something for free whilst deriving great value from it, and in other circumstances, the thinking that nothing in life is for free prevails, as you are paying for it somehow, even though you may not know it.
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