When do consumers think a freebie is more valuable than a discounted product?

Aug 20, 2013

Consumers may value a free gift more than a deeply discounted promotional item, especially if it comes from a prestigious brand, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"Since consumers believe the value of a free product is likely to be consistent with the value of the purchased product, pairing a free product with a high-end product may very well increase perceptions of its value," write authors Mauricio M. Palmeira (Monash University) and Joydeep Srivastava (University of Maryland).

These days, companies often offer bonus products for free or at a low discounted price with a required . For example, high-end cosmetics companies like Lancôme or Clinique offer free gifts with the purchase of a full-priced product.

In one study, participants were offered a free or discounted package of spaghetti with the purchase of a jar of organic tomato sauce for $8.95. They were then asked how much they would pay for the spaghetti individually. People offered free spaghetti were willing to pay an average of $2.95 for it, but those offered the spaghetti for $.50 were only willing to pay an average of $1.83.

When a free product is paired with an expensive product, consumers assume it is worth more than if it was offered at a low discounted price. For example, if a luxury jeweler offers a free bottle of wine with a purchase, consumers assume it isn't cheap. But, according to the authors, customers might assume the same wine is cheaper if the jeweler offers it for $1.

"Promotions with low discounted prices devalue products more than free offers. In fact, free offers may not devalue products at all when they are paired with an expensive purchase, as will use the price of the focal product to estimate the value of the supplementary product," the authors conclude. "If Mercedes-Benz promotes a car with a free GPS system, we expect the GPS to be high quality," the authors explain.

Explore further: Why are consumers less likely to buy a product when it's the only option?

More information: Mauricio M. Palmeira and Joydeep Srivastava. "Free Offer ? Cheap Product: A Selective Accessibility Account on the Valuation of Free Offers." Journal of Consumer Research: December 2013.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Early product launches: How will consumers respond?

Apr 19, 2011

A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research explains why consumers often indicate they are willing to pay more for a product that is not yet available—but are reluctant to pay that price when the product is ultima ...

Ownership increases the value of products

Aug 15, 2012

The price a consumer will pay for a product is often significantly less than the price they will accept to sell it. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, this occurs because ownership of a product enhanc ...

Is the iPad Creative? It depends on who's buying it

Mar 05, 2013

Encouraging consumers to feel ownership of products they haven't yet purchased can backfire because consumers tend to see themselves in the products they own, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.