by Renee

3 min reading time

Deals or Devaluation? The True Price of Discounts




In today’s consumer-driven age, the allure of discounts and offers is omnipresent. We’re bombarded with flashing banners, limited-time offers, and holiday sales. But does this culture of constant discounts actually devalue brands and products? Let’s delve deeper.

Historical Context of Discounts

The origins of modern discounts also intertwine with innovative marketing strategies. Notably, Coca-Cola is credited with pioneering the use of coupons in 1887. Asa Candler, seeking to introduce his beverage to a wider audience, crafted hand-written vouchers that offered a free glass of Coca-Cola, typically priced at 5 cents. This clever tactic aimed to entice the public to sample the drink, and its success was resounding. By 1913, an astonishing 8.5 million free drinks had been handed out, equating to nearly one in nine Americans having tasted Coca-Cola without spending a dime. Tracing further back to ancient barter systems, the rudimentary form of discounts emerged as negotiated values of goods. The rise of department stores in the 1860s established fixed price tags but also brought about seasonal sales. Supermarkets and chain stores in the 20th century expanded promotions, and the digital age has since enhanced the ubiquity and appeal of discounts. Today’s discount culture is a fusion of these historic practices, meeting the demands of our immediate, value-seeking era.

The Psychology Behind Discounts

Discounts, a prevalent marketing strategy, play a significant role in shaping a consumer’s perception of a product’s value. The pleasure derived from acquiring an item at a “steal” intensifies its allure. However, consistent discounts can warp the perceived worth, leading consumers to question the product’s original price. 

Adding to this complexity is the sense of urgency created by limited-time offers, which can induce a fear of missing out (FOMO) and prompt impulsive purchases. Neurologically, the act of securing a discount stimulates the brain’s reward system, releasing dopamine and providing a euphoric feeling. Yet, this can also lead to habit formation, where the pursuit of discounts overshadows genuine product needs. After the purchase, cognitive dissonance might arise, often alleviated by post-purchase rationalization, where the consumer justifies their decision primarily based on the obtained discount.

Impact on Brand Loyalty

Brand loyalty is the consumer’s allegiance to a brand, reflected in their purchasing habits. Constant discounts can unintentionally signal a brand’s desperation for sales, making consumers wonder: if the brand doesn’t value its products enough to maintain a consistent price, why should they? Continuous sales can thus erode the trust and loyalty consumers place in a brand.

Effect on Smaller Brands

For emerging brands or those with limited financial backing, matching the discount tempo of larger players is challenging. While they might offer quality, the overshadowing power of big brands and their constant sales can drown smaller brands. These brands face a hard choice: join the discount parade and reduce profit margins or maintain prices and risk being overlooked.

Consumer Expectations and Buying Behavior

If every event, holiday, or change of season is met with a sale, consumers become conditioned to wait. Why buy now when a discount is just around the corner? This expectation can disrupt the regular purchasing cycle and lead to unpredictable sales patterns, making it harder for brands to forecast and manage inventory.

So, Discounts: Smart Move or Slippery Slope?

The use of discounts as a marketing tool presents a complex landscape for both established and emerging brands. For larger brands, is the short-term surge in sales worth the potential long-term devaluation and consumer expectation for perpetual deals? Can they maintain brand loyalty without regularly slashing prices? Conversely, for smaller brands, is the lure of drawing customers through discounts worth the risk of diminishing their unique value proposition or eroding slim profit margins? 

As we reflect on these questions, it’s evident that the world of discounts isn’t black and white. It encompasses a spectrum of pros and cons, challenges and opportunities. Brands, big and small, must navigate this terrain judiciously, ensuring that their pricing strategies align with their long-term vision and values, while also acknowledging the ever-evolving consumer expectations. In this dance of discounts, where does true value lie? The answer may well vary, but the question itself is indispensable in today’s dynamic market.


In conclusion, while discounts are a powerful tool for driving sales, an over-reliance on them can be a double-edged sword. Brands must tread carefully, considering not just short-term sales boosts but also long-term brand equity and customer loyalty. As consumers, maybe it’s time we start valuing products for their inherent worth, rather than the discounts attached to them.

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Yonis Brander

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