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We have all read such advertisements in the newspapers and on social media. But, why are most companies repetitively using the word 'free' in their marketing campaigns?
What psychological impact does this four-letter word 'free' create in the minds of the customer? How does the company boost its audience engagement and revenue by giving something for free?
To find answers to all these questions keep reading this 'free' article.
Is Free Actually Free?
Let's first define the word free before we dive deep into this topic. When we say something is free we mean to say that we don't have to pay money in order to buy the product.
But, when we see this definition from the lens of marketing we get to know that not everything is all black and white. For example, when we buy a premium laptop the company provides us with free earphones.
Are we getting those earphones for free? The answer is NO. This is because we are actually paying a lot of money for the laptop and the earphones at that point in time, are not absolutely for free.
A lot of companies provide a free trial for their products. But, is that trial absolutely free? Because in most cases the company takes your email id in exchange. After that, you will receive a lot of marketing emails and maybe even calls to buy the product. Due to online advertising and SEO, the company will show you ads regarding the products on every other website.
Nowadays, most companies ask you to put your credit card details. So, when your trial period ends if you don't cancel the subscription on time, the money is automatically deducted from your account.
In other words, free doesn't really ensure convenience. Most people won't consider such products free because the company will irritate them with tons of unnecessary advertising campaigns which ultimately leads to wastage of time of the customers. And we all know the old saying, 'Time is Money'.
How Different Companies are Giving Products and Services for Free?
Before we tell you the psychological impact of the word free let's understand how different companies use the word 'free' in their marketing campaigns and what effect it has on their target audience.
A lot of the SaaS products provide Fremium services to their users. Here, you can use the basic functions of the products for free. But, in order to gain robust features of the service, you need to pay money.
A popular example of this kind of service is Grammarly. Both students and business professionals can use Grammarly to make their content grammatically for free. But, to use its premium features we need to pay money.
Now, the reason to give services for free is to make the person understand the qualities of service you are providing and most importantly make him/her habitual to the product. When I am using Grammarly daily I know how to operate the product. It has become very easy for me to use this service.
So, when I want to buy a paid service I would automatically buy Grammarly because I know what kind of quality the software provides and secondly I have become habitual of using it.
Buy One Get One Free
We have also seen this marketing strategy multiple times in our lives. To be very frank this is one of the most overused strategies. But, let me tell you this strategy still works. This is because we humans want to get the most out of the money we spent. So, when we are buying a product and if we get to know that we can get another product without paying any extra money we immediately buy it.
Many times when we open the newspaper we get a free sachet of shampoo. When we are at malls we see a lot of people giving free samples of their products. But, why are they giving free samples? The reason for this is the principle of reciprocity. Let's understand this principle and what psychological impact it creates in the minds of the reader.
Psychological Impact of the Word Free
The psychological impact of the word free is related to the principle of reciprocity. According to this principle, if someone does something helpful for you, a strong feeling to give the person something back in return arouses in your mind. For example, if your friend helps you in studying or gives you a precious gift you will be obligated to return the favour.
The same happens when we get free samples or products from any company. After using their product we inherently get a feeling to return the favour by purchasing their product. This is the exact reason why companies give free products and services to their target audience.
Instead of forcing your prospects to buy the product, you are adding value to your lives by giving the product for free. Due to the principle of reciprocity, the prospects themselves get the idea of buying your product.
Negative Impact of Overusing the Word Free
The word free has a huge positive impact on the prospects. But, if you overuse it then it will drastically impact your sales and audience engagement. As so many people use this word repetitively in their marketing campaigns the word ‘free’ has lost its charm. Many email marketing services consider the word free as spam.
Customers as well have become very smart. When they get to know that the brand is offering products or services for free a lot of questions pop up in their mind. Is the product of high quality? Are there any hidden terms and conditions? What is the intention of the company? Is there something wrong with the product?
If your brand is new to the market and you give something for free on a regular interval then the audience will feel that the product is of low quality. It will have a negative impact on the goodwill of the company.
Although the principle of reciprocity works in this scenario the feeling to return the favour might turn into guilt. After a certain point of time customers won't try your free sample nor buy your products.
The worst-case scenario would be that you might have habituated your customers to get free products from you. This happens when you give heavy discounts on a daily basis. Your company will then have to provide free samples and discounts in order to sustain in the market. You definitely want to avoid this.
You need to first understand how the audience perceives your brand. Remember, if you are overusing free in your business strategy you won't build loyal customers and you will never see a boost in your profits.
Free is a very powerful word and if used correctly it will lead to positive emotions in the minds of your prospects. Although if you overuse it will backfire and harm your goodwill and revenue.
The aim of your brand should always be to help your customers. Instead of providing a mediocre product or service for free try to make your offer exciting and helpful. If you are able to add value to their lives then your sales will definitely increase.
Always explain why you are giving a product or service for free. Clarify your intentions and the word free will do wonders for your brand.
Should you use the word free in marketing?
Yes, Free is a word that will attract an audience and is one of the most effective ways for consumers to try your product.
Why is free so powerful in advertising?
Free is a word that stands out and separates your brand from the competition.