If ‘Free’ is the new price. What exactly would we pay for?

Chris Anderson, Editor in Chief of Wired, has a new book out. It’s called Free ($26.99 from all good booksellers). The essence of the argument is that the economics of scarcity apply less and less in a world of abundant bandwidth and processing power and that whenever the marginal cost of production approaches zero so will the cost to the end user. This applies most elegantly where ‘if something can become software it can also become free.’

As usual there is lots of thought provoking stuff here but maybe the most interesting reference is to what  Anderson belives that people will still pay for.

  • To save time
  • To reduce risk
  • For things they love
  • For status
  • If you force them (once they are hooked)

This creates an interesting draft rule book for brand marketers. It demands that brands require high genuine or perceived utility and equally high real or perceived barriers to substitution. The latter point, it seems to me, is all about marketing. The imperative for brands to develop distinct and defensible positionings has never been greater, and while that is hard it is not half as challenging as creating genuine and sustainable product performance differentiation.

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