Pricing For Richistan

Richistan is the name of the book by The Wall Street Journal columnist Robert Frank. The book is about the lives of the wealthy and high propensity to consume. Frank says in that book,

Pricing for Richistan is like pushing an unlocked door – no pressure

Through @pricingclub I saw the USA Today news on $4000 sunglasses by Oakley.

“I could have seen something like this selling three years ago,” says John Horan, publisher of Sporting Goods Intelligence newsletter. “But conspicuous consumption is out.”

Conspicuous consumption is not all out. While marketers (like LVMH) targeted Richistan there were a few other segments which self selected themselves. They had high willingness to pay but not the wherewithal to pay.  Only these segments are now out. Since the economic downturn we do not know the population of Richistan. Their ranks may have shrunk but as it does I hypothesize that those who are left in it have increasingly low price sensitivity and are willing to splurge lot more than. So it makes sense to introduce super and ultra premium products like the $4000 sunglasses.

Oakley is producing just 200 pairs, thus making it exclusive and its stated target segment is “the guy who doesn’t blink at spending $300,000 on a car”. This is super narrow targeting, males of Richistan that can buy expensive cars without a thought. Compared to $300K price tag the $4K is going to look relatively small.

Another reason why this will help Oakley is the presence of $4K per pair sunglasses helps to improve customer reference price and make their $200-$500 prices look like a great deal.

Great marketing strategy. But, what is surprising to me from that story is not the price but the argument for the high price based on the cost.

About 80 layers of costly carbon fiber — a material more common to the aerospace and motor sports industries — are pressed into the frame. The ultracostly material and design make the frames more flexible and comfortable for athletes, says Neil Ferrier, Oakley’s advanced product development chief.

Another reason for the high price tag, Ferrier says, is the number of worker hours devoted to them. About 90 hours of machine time go into crafting each pair, he estimates.

Costs do not matter to customers and making a cost based justification makes sense only if a marketer expects push back.    So why bother even mentioning cost to produce?

4 thoughts on “Pricing For Richistan

  1. I think the cost argument is simply a deception, intended to inflate the perceived value and quality of the sunglasses.

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