Marketing gurus always say, ‘give value,’ but what does that mean, and should you even do it?

The marketing world revolves around one key concept: value. Businesses aim to deliver it, customers seek it, and marketing strategies are built around it.

Written by Hourglass Media

July 26, 2023

The marketing world revolves around one key concept: value. Businesses aim to deliver it, customers seek it, and marketing strategies are built around it. The ‘giving value’ paradigm suggests that providing something beneficial to customers fosters engagement. What is this elusive ‘value?’ and how does it balance in the grand scheme of marketing?

Understanding Value

Before delving into the pros and cons of ‘giving value,’ it’s vital to understand what value means in a marketing context. Value is a trade-off between what a customer gets (product quality, service, experience) and what they give (money, time, effort). However, value is far more complex and multifaceted.

Functional Value

As marketers, our ultimate goal is to communicate the unique value that our products or services can offer to customers. A significant portion of this value comes from the functional benefits – the tangible, practical advantages that customers can expect to gain.

When we talk about the functional value of our offerings, we typically refer to a few key components:

Performance: This is all about delivering superior operational efficiency. A car that zooms past competitors or software that executes tasks seamlessly are great examples of performance value. Our job is to highlight this superiority in our marketing narratives.

Reliability: This speaks to the trustworthiness of our product or service. It’s about ensuring and communicating to our customers that they can always depend on our offering to work as promised.

Durability: We’re proud of the lifespan of our products. Durability is about the promise of longevity and sustained quality. Customers appreciate and are willing to invest in products that will stand the test of time.

Ease of Use: We’re all about making our customers’ lives easier. A product or service that is intuitive and uncomplicated to use can save customers time and prevent frustration, a value proposition we strive to bring across in our communications.

Safety: Our customers’ safety is our utmost priority. By designing products or services that minimize risk and prevent accidents, we offer customers peace of mind, which is invaluable.

Take a vacuum cleaner as an example. The functional value we would market here revolves around how well it cleans (performance), how long it lasts (durability), its ease of operation (ease of use), its unfailing reliability in performing its task (reliability), and its safety measures for the user (safety).

It’s important to note that while functional value forms the core part of our value proposition, we know that we need more in a competitive marketplace. That’s why we also focus on delivering and showcasing emotional and symbolic values, going above and beyond just the functional utility. After all, customers might be willing to invest more in a product that serves a purpose and resonates emotionally or symbolically with them.

Monetary Value

From a marketing perspective, monetary value is an integral part of our value proposition that focuses on customers’ perceptions of the worth they get in exchange for the price they pay for our product or service. It doesn’t necessarily relate to the cheapest price tag but to the concept of obtaining optimal value for money.

There are several key areas where we, as marketers, focus on emphasizing monetary value:

Cost-Effectiveness: This isn’t about being the cheapest on the market. Instead, it is about being the best value for money. It’s our role to convey how our product or service delivers superior benefits at a reasonable cost, resulting in a highly favorable benefit-to-cost ratio.

Price Transparency: We believe in no hidden costs or surprises. Clear, straightforward pricing helps our customers understand exactly what they’re getting and at what cost. This clarity builds trust and reinforces the monetary value we offer.

Savings Over Time: Certain products or services may be costlier upfront but save money in the long run. As marketers, we underscore the long-term savings potential and the sustained value our offerings provide over time.

Additional Benefits: These are the perks that come alongside our core offering. These additional benefits enhance the perceived monetary value, whether it’s excellent customer service, warranties, loyalty rewards, or exclusive access to features.

Take, for example, a high-end smartphone. While its price tag may be higher than others, we focus on marketing its superior features, durability, unique design, exclusive services, and brand reputation. All of these justify the higher cost and boost the perceived monetary value for the customer.

Remember, monetary value isn’t just about price; it’s about showcasing to customers that the benefits they receive from our product or service outweigh the costs. In a competitive marketplace, positioning our offerings in terms of superior monetary value is crucial to influencing purchasing decisions and establishing long-term customer loyalty.

Social Value

From a marketer’s viewpoint, social value refers to the ability of our products or services to elevate a customer’s social status or facilitate their social interactions. It’s about how our offerings can enhance their social experiences and relationships or how they can enhance their perceived standing within their social circles.

In our marketing strategies, we emphasize various aspects of social value, such as:

Status Enhancement: Certain products, especially those in the luxury segment, can boost the user’s social status. They act as symbols of achievement, wealth, or taste. We aim to highlight this potential status elevation in our marketing narratives, portraying our product as a testament to the customer’s success or discerning nature.

Community Building: Some of our services or products can foster community among users. Whether through shared interests, common goals, or a collective identity, we strive to bring out this social bonding aspect. For example, we may market a social media platform as a space where users can connect, share, and learn from each other.

Social Validation: Our offerings may serve as a means for customers to garner social validation. In a world increasingly influenced by social media, products and services that are share-worthy or generate likes, comments, or shares offer additional social value.

Shared Values: Sometimes, our products or services resonate with particular social values or causes, allowing customers to express their affiliations or beliefs. By purchasing from us, customers can make a statement about what they stand for, adding another layer of social value.

Consider a high-end designer handbag, for example. As marketers, we’d focus on its ability to signal status (status enhancement), its desirability in social media circles (social validation), and perhaps its alignment with ethical fashion movements (shared values).

In the end, social value is about more than just the product or service itself – it’s about the social benefits it brings to our customers. Our role as marketers is to highlight these benefits and show how our offerings can enhance customers’ social lives and standing.

Psychological Value

From a marketing perspective, the psychological value represents the emotional benefits or personal gratification a customer experiences when purchasing or using our products or services. It’s not just about the practical functionality of the product but the feelings it evokes and how it aligns with the consumer’s self-perception or ideal self-image.

When we shape our marketing strategies around psychological value, we focus on several key elements:

Emotional Gratification: Our products or services can spark positive emotions in our customers. Whether it’s the joy of using a new gadget, the comfort of a familiar brand, or the thrill of a new experience, we aim to highlight these emotional experiences in our marketing messages.

Self-Expression: Our offerings can be tools for customers to express their identities, tastes, and preferences. As marketers, we underscore how our products or services can reflect the consumer’s style or embody their values and beliefs.

Peace of Mind: Certain products or services provide reassurance to our customers. This could be through enhanced safety features, reliable performance, or quality customer service. We emphasize these elements to underscore how our offerings contribute to a worry-free experience.

Personal Fulfilment: Our products or services can sometimes contribute to the user’s sense of personal accomplishment or growth. Whether mastering a new skill, improving personal health, or achieving a long-term goal, we highlight these personal fulfillment aspects in our messaging.

Consider a book, for instance. We’d market it not just as a bundle of pages but as a gateway to relaxation, an escape from reality, a source of inspiration, or a means to acquire new knowledge – all contributing to the reader’s well-being.

In essence, psychological value is about our offerings’ intangible, emotional benefits. It’s about the satisfaction, joy, confidence, comfort, or personal growth that our products or services bring to the lives of our customers. As marketers, we must weave these elements into our narratives, creating connections extending way beyond the product’s basic utility.

Ethical and Environmental Value

From a marketing standpoint, ethical and environmental value refers to our products or services’ positive social or ecological impact. Consumers are increasingly making conscious choices that reflect their values and desire to make a difference. They’re seeking products that serve a functional purpose and contribute to sustainable and equitable practices.

When building marketing strategies around ethical and environmental value, we focus on several key facets:

Sustainable Practices: As an environmentally conscious brand, we underline our commitment to sustainability. This can include utilizing renewable resources, minimizing waste, or reducing carbon footprints. Our marketing messages highlight these eco-friendly practices, showcasing how our customers can contribute to environmental preservation through their purchases.

Fair Trade and Ethical Sourcing: We emphasize our adherence to fair trade practices and ethical sourcing of materials. This means ensuring that workers in our supply chain are paid fairly and work in safe conditions. We communicate this commitment to our customers, demonstrating that purchasing from us supports equitable business practices.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): As part of our commitment to giving back to society, we might engage in various CSR initiatives. These could range from charitable donations to community outreach programs. In our marketing narratives, we emphasize how customers, by choosing us, contribute to these positive societal impacts.

Transparency: To enhance trust and authenticity, we strive to be transparent about our practices and operations. We share information about our sourcing, production processes, and CSR initiatives, proving to our customers that our ethical and environmental claims are valid and verifiable.

Consider, for instance, a coffee brand that sources its beans from fair trade farmers, uses biodegradable packaging, and invests a portion of its profits back into the farming communities. We’d market these aspects to highlight the ethical and environmental value customers receive by choosing our brand.

Remember, ethical and environmental value is all about making a difference. It’s about enabling our customers to feel good about their purchases, knowing they’re not just acquiring a product or service but also making a positive contribution to the world. As marketers, we communicate these benefits effectively and show how choosing our offerings aligns with the consumer’s values and desire to effect change.

The Pros of ‘Giving Value’

Customer Retention and Loyalty

A brand consistently delivering value can foster loyalty, encouraging customers to stick around and even become brand advocates. From providing solutions to specific problems, saving time or money, to offering emotional satisfaction, the value given results in customer retention, which is often more cost-effective than acquiring new customers.

Differentiation in the Marketplace

In today’s crowded marketplace, differentiation is crucial. When a brand is associated with value, it stands out from competitors. Giving value, particularly unique value others don’t offer, can create a strong brand position and make the brand a customer’s first choice.

Building Trust and Reputation

By consistently giving value, a brand can establish trust with its customers. This can result in a positive brand reputation, with customers associating the brand with reliability and quality. Trust is a crucial factor in purchasing decisions, especially in industries with a high risk of a bad purchase.

Enhanced Customer Engagement

When customers perceive value, they are more likely to engage with the brand. This could mean subscribing to a newsletter, participating in a community, or sharing brand content on social media. Higher engagement often leads to stronger customer relationships and increased sales.

Long-Term Business Growth

Giving value aligns with a long-term business growth strategy. Brands that prioritize delivering value are likely to see sustained growth over time as they cultivate strong customer relationships and foster loyalty.

The Cons of ‘Giving Value’

Despite these advantages, the ‘giving value’ approach has its downsides. Let’s explore some of them.

Subjectivity of Value

Value is subjective and varies greatly among customers. Broad assumptions about what a target audience finds valuable may not resonate with individual customers. This subjectivity makes it challenging for marketers to define and deliver value that satisfies everyone.

Risk of Manipulative Practices

The idea of “giving value” can be misused as a cover for manipulative practices. Businesses might overpromise and under-deliver or use tactics to make products or services appear more valuable than they truly are, potentially eroding customer trust.

Overemphasis on Commercial Value

The ‘giving value’ paradigm often focuses predominantly on commercial benefits, which can sideline other types of value like ethical or societal values. A business might provide value in terms of low prices but at the cost of ethical labor practices or environmental sustainability, leading to reputational risks and potential customer backlash.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Trade-Offs

What appears as value in the short term might not hold true in the long run. Businesses may attract customers with low prices or immediate benefits. Still, if these result in poor quality or inadequate customer service, perceived value may decrease over time, impacting customer retention and brand reputation.

Inflated Customer Expectations

Businesses can inadvertently inflate customer expectations in the race to deliver ever-increasing value. If customers come to expect high levels of value as the norm, it can become difficult for companies to meet these expectations or differentiate themselves continuously.

Inequitable Value Distribution

The value delivered is only sometimes equitably distributed among all stakeholders. A business may provide significant value to customers at the expense of its employees or the local community, leading to sustainability issues and reputational damage.

The roundup…

The concept of ‘giving value’ in business and marketing is a multifaceted and nuanced principle. It offers potential benefits such as customer loyalty, differentiation, and long-term growth, but it also has potential pitfalls, including the risk of manipulation, inflated expectations, and inequitable value distribution.

Value itself is complex, going beyond mere functional or monetary aspects to include social, psychological, and ethical dimensions. Understanding this can help businesses to deliver value more effectively in ways that resonate with their customers and support their broader goals.

Ultimately, ‘giving value’ is not just a marketing tactic—it’s a commitment to genuinely understanding and serving customers’ needs and wants while considering the broader impacts of a business. By understanding and balancing the pros and cons of the ‘giving value’ approach, businesses can build trust, foster lasting customer relationships, and drive sustainable growth.

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