The magic of free

I remember a few years ago when I was living in Fitzroy I was running through the Carlton gardens, and noticed a fun-run kicking off. Even better, they were giving away free T-shirts to anyone running! And before I knew it I was lining up, cunningly pretending that I was about to do the fun-run, in order to score a free T-shirt. Yeah baby, I’m going to get me one of those! And it was only as I walked away, free bounty in my hand, that the thought struck me – I need another crappy T-shirt promoting a run that I didn’t even do like I need a hole in the head. So surreptitiously I snuck back and quietly deposited the T-shirt back in the box under the table.

The Magic of Free

I had been seduced by the magic of free.

There’s some pretty cool science around this too.

My favourite experiment that demonstrates the power of free was conducted by Dan Ariely (author of the fabulous book Predictably Irrational) and a couple of his colleagues. They set up a table selling chocolates – “one chocolate per customer” – and offered a exquisite Lindt Swiss chocolate for 15 cents and a much more average American Hershey’s Kiss for one cent. Not surprisingly 73% of people paid a little bit extra for the quality chocolate.

The interesting thing happened when they reduced the cost of both by that one cent – the Lindt was now 14c, and the Kiss was free. Suddenly 69% of people chose the free option, and only 31% went for the quality chocolate. The magic of free had kicked in.

We did a little experiment ourselves with this very recently. There is a seminar I’ve been running for about three years that sells a box of goodness. And we have a really good affiliate who has promoted it for us the entire time to their members. But as you can imagine the effectiveness has dropped off after three years promoting the same program to the same list. So instead of $55, we made it free. Last time around at $55 we had about 15 registrations. This time, at free we had 70 within 24 hours.

Love to hear your thoughts – what do you think about the magic of free? You can leave them below.