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From time to time we have all been taken in by the wonder of a Buy One Get One sale.  Even if we didn't make an unplanned purchase, we were intrigued by the idea of getting more proverbial bang for our literal buck.  What is it about this form of advertising that makes these sales so appealing to business and consumers alike?  Is it fuzzy math or is it actual magic?  What can we learn from BOGO sales and their undeniable audience appeal?  Is it just a cheap gimmick or is there something more to it?  Read more and you may get more than you bargained for.

The Magic of BOGOs

I once believed that BOGOs were nothing more than cheap, gimmicky tricks used to peddle junk by adding crap to it.  Don't get me wrong, they are at times used in such a way.  However, after working in retail, I realized there is an undeniable strength in a good BOGO campaign.  This is because the BOGO concept is based on the most basic of commerce principles.  There may be a bit of slide of hand, but it's not so much different than what we do when we sell anything.  The magic behind the BOGO sales is simply this: misdirected value.  We can see this in two simple steps:

  1. The item for sale holds less value in the mind of the consumer, though its worth is strong to the producer.  Strict capitalism would demand that the prices meet somewhere in the middle which might satisfy (but underwhelm) both parties.
  2. The item for sale is given an additional item that is of virtually no worth to the producer but seems of great value to the consumer.  Thus the price point is not only satisfactory but delightful to both parties.

This is the exact same principle that applies to any admirable commerce.  It is the trading of goods or services in a way that will please both parties.  This is possible because both parties end up with something they wanted more than what they had.  If I sell you my old phone and charger for $100 we can presume that you wanted my old phone and charger more than you wanted your $100.  Likewise we can presume that I wanted your $100 more then I wanted my old phone and charger.  The BOGO concept is the same principle, just worded differently.  Instead I would sell you my old phone for $100 and throw in the charger for free.  It's misdirected value.  It is making a perfectly legitimacy price seem like a better deal.

The Lessons of BOGOs

Cheap is better than Free
While shopping, my wife apathetically commented that bedding sets (something we don't need) were on sale: Buy One Get One Free.  When we arrived at the bedding section she excitedly exclaimed, "It's Buy One Get One for a Dollar!"  In her mind, it honestly would have been a better deal to get a second bedding set for 1 dollar than it would have been to get it for 0 dollars.  Why?  Remember, its all about assigning value.  If it's free, it likely has no value!  However, if it's severely discounted, the value has not necessarily been diminished.

A Chance is better than a Guarantee is a great resource for farmers, educators, politicians and others in the agricultural industry.  Their daily e-mails contain agricultural news pertinent to growers in and around the state of Georgia.  The service they provide and the time they save are invaluable to their clients.  However, when they set up a booth at markets or expos what do you think their signs say?  "Get ag news guaranteed"?  Nope, they say "Sign-up for a chance to win ..." Why?  Because the chance to win seems to have more value than the guarantee to get (even if what you will get has more actual value).

The Challenge of BOGOs

So, the BOGO sales, whether we embrace them or not, should challenge us to rethink the way we present our goods or services.  There are times that we offer things that have actual value that cannot be seen.  Before you drop the price to an unsatisfactory level, it might be best to explore new ways of introducing that value to your target audience.  With a little magic, they might place the value of your product at what its worth to you.