Electronics retailers are cutting the prices of Blu-ray players, hoping that a lower cost will attract more consumers to the format.
That's one way to do it. Not a good one, though.
Price is the bugaboo of any brand communication, and usually the tool of last resort (because it's implicitly the least profitable tactic to utilize). Getting consumers to pay less for something is an inelegant way of making up for the fact that they don't see any more value in the purchase. Marketing can talk about perceived value up until the moment cash has to exit somebody's purse or wallet, at which time it's either real...or not.
Blu-ray won the Format War against HD, and the world has been waiting to see what that would mean. So far, marketers have been unsuccessful in communicating the value of that victory to anybody beyond early-adopters, those with money to burn, and the otherwise gullible.
It's a tough argument to make.
- The picture is better, although not in a vinyl-to-CD sort of way
- You need a hoity-toity TV to notice the difference, which'll cost something
- Blu-ray dics are double (or more) the price of regular DVDs, and
- The new players still are 3x or more the price of standard entry-level devices
Is Blu-ray that much better? I suspect the math just doesn't add up, even with the player discounts.
So I'd offer that maybe the strategy shouldn't be to lower prices whatsoever, at least not yet.
There are at least two approaches that could focus on increasing the preception of value, while preserving the profit margins behind it:
First, give the players away for free. I wrote about this idea almost a year ago, and I still think it makes sense. The goal is to get the devices into regular use, especially before digital transmission obviates the need altogether. That means getting consumers into/back into the habit of renting discs. So why couldn't the device manufacturers cut deals with the content creators (in some, if not many instances, they’re parts of the same conglomerates), and implement a "razor & blades" strategy? Focus the perception and experience of value on the content, and perhaps find new ways to get discs to people more often, more easily, etc.
Second, create exclusive content for the format. Maybe skip enticement altogether, and simply start putting out stuff that's exclusively on Blu-ray. Perhaps there's extra content that could only come in the format (don't the discs hold a ton more data than standard discs?). How about special movie trailers that only get enjoyed on the format? There could be creative ways to access this content, whether through subscriptions, pre-orders, or whatever so, again, consumers saw value in the content, not just in the cost of a device.
Ultimately, Blu-ray is going to have to figure out how to not only tell consumers why it's better, but why it's a necessity among a growing universe of playback options. And the clock is ticking. Digitally, of course.