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Unconventional Pricing — A New Way to Create a Buzz?
By: Dana Severson
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I was recently tasked to come up with creative ways to improve the business of a hotel. All the usual suspects were discussed, especially those relying on social media platforms.
QR codes to enrich the guests’ experiences were of the most interest. The retailer would simply place matrix barcodes in the lobby, gift shop, rooms, and other locales around the hotel to offer information not just on the hotel itself, but also area shops, restaurants, attractions, and events to add even more value to the stay.
A close second to Quick Response was SMS messaging. With the help of geofencing, the retailer would send a simple message service text to people at the airport and local convention centers of their offerings. Of course, the message is only sent to those opting in — so the reach is fairly limited. Not to mention the fact that most travelers and convention-goers likely secure accommodations before ever leaving home.
But one of the more intriguing ideas — at least to me — was unconventional pricing.
The brainchild was birthed out of a strategy used at a local restaurant in Minneapolis. Each night, one unsuspecting table receives a menu from when the establishment originally opened back in the 1950s. Each entrée is then priced accordingly.
In this same city, a theatre company offers a night of “pay what we’re worth” for each of their productions. No money is exchanged hands before seeing the show. Instead, you’re given an envelope. After the final curtain, audience members slip cash (or check) in the envelope and drop it in a box at the door.
This got me to thinking about unconventional pricing for almost any business, and if it truly is a beneficial marketing tactic.  
It may seem novel, but the method was extremely buzz-worthy. The restaurant and theatre company have both built a heavy word-of-mouth. They’ve also caught the eye of many media outlets, getting some free press for their endeavors — and, really, you can’t beat that, especially when it’s good.
Just by changing their pricing structure in an unconventional way, both enjoyed a lot of buzz.
Could an unconventional pricing structure work for any business? If so, can it translate into long-term growth?


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About the Author
Dana Severson is a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant in the Twin Cities area. Find him at his website for a little downhome advice. 
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