Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix (NFLX) has cemented his position on my Hall of Shame. Whether hubris (outrageous arrogance) or stupidity, Netflix has taken an ill-advised price increase and transformed it into a runaway train that threatens to jeopardize the company. The story began when Reed Hastings and his management team, after doing apparently no market research, decided to raise their prices by approximately 60 percent. This action was taken amidst a continuous stream of record earnings, customer loyalty and a growing customer base.

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In a marketing blunder that rivals Coca Cola’s (temporary) abandonment of its original formula in favor of the sweeter “New Coke,” Netflix (NFLX), despite its incredible success and customer affection, decided to raise its prices 60 percent. Stock tumbled 19 percent. One million customers instantly abandoned Netflix. Was this incredible greed, stupidity or just plain ignorance?

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Most pricing strategists would agree that having a low price is not a competitive advantage in and of itself. In fact, thinking that low prices are always a good strategy for competition is deeply misguided. However, at times, targeting low prices can lead to a strategic focus which delivers tremendous results. For example, Ikea, Wal-Mart, and Southwest Airlines all have low prices and profitably take market share. In this article, we will examine the flaws of assuming low prices is a good competitive strategy, then demonstrate how one firm, Southwest Airlines, redefined the product through target pricing to win the market profitably.

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“Here lies a humanist.” Abdurrahman Wahid, First Democratically Elected President of Indonesia, 1940-2009 Utility defines value. Does your new idea meet this test? PWYW continues to find new uses in the market for firms with strong and personal customer relationships. If the company doesn’t work, then the customers don’t get served. Trademark challenges create management…

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