Free Lunches…

There are no free lunches – it is us consumers who end up paying for the so called free items.

  • In times of steep price rises the marketers have now begun to slowly change their strategy:
    • Retaining price band but reducing the net weight of the product (with a “Statutory Warning” (sic!) that the product is in non-standard size (90 gram soaps and 800 gm detergent packs)
    • Pretty-pricing: Capitalizing on the ‘99 is not hundred’ syndrome.
  • Freebies are in the form of assured prizes (e.g. “free ring tones” which the customer ends paying for as s/he is to send an sms and all smses lead to part of revenue being shared by the telecom service provider with the manufacturer. Some even improve their bottom line with this…
  • The more advertisements (print & TV combined) the more the hidden costs which we – the consumers – pay for… (Still wondering why carbonated sugary water costs so much?)
  • Newspapers have invitation prices too – and this is one arena where the consumer has benefited (TOI – Times of India – at one time used to indicate the cost price of the day’s edition – to indicate the amount of subsidy the advertising revenues were adding up to). TOI is also known to sell its front page!

  • Celebrity endorsement is being used mindlessly – even here often instead of one person the brand often ends up using more than one (e.g. Pepsi uses this very often). However, the brand recall goes for a toss – it’s only the celebrity who gets to laugh all the way to the bank!
  • The aspiration factor is getting mindlessly inflated – Maggi noodles took around 10 years to establish themselves (and Kelloggs is following suit – with their deep pockets they are willing to wait for the next generation to start recovering their investments)
  • The health conscious (sic!) are led up the garden path – with pro-biotic curd (which all curd is anyway!); margarine (low-fat butter substitute – which has been medically proven to be worse); sugar-free sweets; preservative free products, et al
  • Sometimes humor is the adhesive used to ensure consumers stick to a particular product – which is not needed yet a falsely attractive ‘brand image’ is created to make people (read children) buy the stuff they see on TV… Yet there are still a large number of new products (energy drinks by Pepsi & Coke) which have bitten the dust…
  • In today’s nuclear families convenience foods are a whole new market segment – turning people away from traditional nutritious foods which costs a fraction of the packaged ones. Packaged drinking water is a necessity in today’s times – as over the years there is more surplus money available (incentive to save is minimized by PC’s (the honorable finance minister) budget giveaways)
  • Luxury products are available in a plenty – cars, bikes et al (and as there is no public transport system – people have no option but to get themselves cars matching their current status; and of course each member of the family has his/her own vehicle…) and so what if the petrol prices rise… so what if there is more congestion… so what if there is more pollution…
  • Every Government spends the citizen’s money to extol their own virtues (the latest being Delhi CM saying that gas prices have increased by only Rs 10 for Delhiites…)

It is a vicious cycle – and we usually become partners in “promoting” such outrageous activities…

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