Sympathetic Pricing – A New Way Into Consumer Hearts/Wallets?

2012-01-06-Sympathetic SharkThe sympathetic shark above is courtesy of

I subscribe to the newsletter and the latest issue talked about Sympathetic Pricing, labelled as a new wave in the overall trend to improve the conscience of businesses.  Here is the report that I summarize very briefly below.

It comes as no surprise that consumers still don’t believe that business have their best interest top of mind. According to PR firm’s COHN & WOLFE’s 2013 report just 5% of consumers in the UK and US believe big businesses are very transparent and honest.

Will this ever change? Well, a lot of companies are trying through sympathetic pricing. So what the heck is sympathetic pricing?

DEFINITION OF SYMPATHETIC PRICING | Flexible and imaginative discounts that help ease lifestyle pain points, lend a helping hand in difficult times, or support a shared value.

There are a few different kinds of sympatethic pricing:

Discounts that target lifestyle pain points.

Trendwatching gives the example of the impressive taxi company Uber:

In April 2014 during a 48-hour London tube strike, mobile cab app Uber offered 50% off all London trips for passengers who split their fare with another passenger. Meanwhile, in October 2013 the company offered free rides to students in Boston during a 24-hour bus strike.

There are more examples of painkiller pricing in the report.

Discounts that offer a helping hand at a difficult time.

In April 2014, online platform Pressfolios announced it would make its service available for free to journalists affected by a staff lay-off by New Jersey’s largest newspaper, the Star-Ledger. Pressfolios allows users to create an online portfolio. The out-of-work journalists received a Pressfolios Pro account with unlimited storage for three months, at no cost.

Discounts in support of a shared value or belief.

As an incentive for motorists to leave their cars at home, all Parisian public transport was free for one weekend in March 2014. The decision was made by transport chiefs in response to the dangerously high levels of pollution which had engulfed the French capital for days.

I think sympathetic pricing makes a whole a lot of sense. Business need to become more human to win consumer interest and this is a great step in the right direction. Our agile online world makes it easier for business to launch sympathetic campaigns quickly and react to world events and target consumers who are in need of a “break”.

It will be interesting to see which businesses can use sympathetic pricing to create a closer bond with their customer base.