"Free" means zero cost; "gift" means zero cost; and "bonus" means zero cost

22 replies
It's really shameful that marketers need to be reminded of the meaning of simple words like "free."

In pricing, "free" means no cost whatsoever.

When you charge $1 for something, it is not free.

When you talk about a "gift," that means it costs nothing.

When you charge $1 for something, it is not a gift.

When you talk about a "bonus," it means it costs nothing.

When you charge a customer who has bought something else, $1 for an additional item, it is not a bonus.

I'm bringing this up because of an email I received this morning from someone who is well known on this board.

It's important to respect your customers and to respect the English language.

You can't bend words to your will just because you want people to get excited about your offer.

Marcia Yudkin
#bonus #cost #free #gift #means
  • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
    Marcia, you bring up an important point. The phenomenon isn't just limited to the online marketing realm.

    In a blog post, From the Desk of John McCabe... Post Topic Birthday Club Marketing - the Right Way and the Wrong Way, I raise a similar point for offline businesses. A 'gift' is not a gift if there are strings attached. The tab might say "no charge" for an item, but if I have to buy specific things during specific time frames to get the free item, it is not a gift.

    Even the "free report for opt-in" model isn't free. It's a barter deal. The one making the offer is willing to trade an item of value for attention and space in the receiver's email inbox, quid pro quo.

    You want to give me a gift, give me a naked link to a direct download. You want to lease space in my inbox, fine, just be upfront about it. You want to give me a discount, call it a discount.

    Now let the parade of "I call it that because it works" posts begin...
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    • Profile picture of the author BoDSN
      I agree!

      And as Mr.McCabe puts it:

      Originally Posted by JohnMcCabe View Post

      Even the "free report for opt-in" model isn't free. It's a barter deal. The one making the offer is willing to trade an item of value for attention and space in the receiver's email inbox, quid pro quo.

      Why is "FREE" only corncerning money? If something is truly free I shouldn't have to give up information, email, name or anything...
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  • Profile picture of the author wisecrone333
    I agree that sometimes some of the offers I have received for free things have still required I use my credit card and I was getting quite annoyed by it.

    Things came to a head when I responded to a well know internet marketer's request for people to work with him - the email really gave the impression he was providing a mentoring service to a select group of people. When i answered his phone call he asked me what I wanted to learn more about and listened (i presumed), before sending me off to watch a half hour promotional video on his new product that if I spent over a $1000 on, I could promote with him. Nothing in the video matched any of the needs i had expressed - so I could not even give the guy the benefit of the doubt that perhaps he was showing me a business model as an example, rather than a sales pitch.

    I don't blame people for wanting to make money - its what I want to do - but to suggest one thing, and then deliver another (especially something so expensive) was pretty lame to me. He even had the cheek to send me a follow up email about two days after I emailed him and told him thanks, but no thanks, reminding me of his offer once again. Now I realize that this was probably an autoresponder issue, but it still rankled me when it happened and even though this is guy is well thought of and what have you, I know I was disappointed in what happened and wouldn't buy his products again on principle.

    I think I will stick to following advice from plain speaking internet marketers I can understand
    Lisa
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  • Profile picture of the author hayfj
    Banned
    A punch in the face is FREE.

    Quesion is....

    is it of VALUE?

    With regards to any proposition there are 4 parts to the equation...

    COST
    PRICE
    VALUE
    PAYMENT

    Many forget about focussing on the real VALUE they offer, by demonstrating the cost of the PROBLEM the SOLUTION can fix, and the IMPACT of not buying the solution.

    Quantify the value and demonstrate that it is less than the problem, and more importatnly that it works.

    What use is something for Free, if it doesnt offer value?



    Think about it.

    Regards


    Fraser
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  • Profile picture of the author dave147
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    • Profile picture of the author Punkaj Dube
      Originally Posted by dave147 View Post

      I think there is FREE (we just need your email address) and then there's Absolutely FREE (no email needed - nothing)
      Then there is ALMOST FREE (you just have to pay $1), FREE [SHIPPING COSTS APPLY] (you just have to pay heavy shipping costs) and FREE* [*Conditions apply] (.....)
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  • Profile picture of the author terryrayburn
    Marcia,

    Good one from someone I've followed and respected for many years now.

    I was going to quibble with you about "bonus" referring to something free, but you drove me to the dictionary to prove my quibble, and lo and behold, you are right.

    It's not a matter of being a cheapskate, it's a matter of integrity.
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  • Profile picture of the author Bev Clement
    Marcia, I totally agree with you. I had someone saying they were giving a free bonus which was worth 4 figures, but to get it you not only had to pay the $1 but sign up for their forced continuity program of $97 a month.

    Follow up emails were then sent which basically riddiculed or belittled the person for not taking action.

    The whole thing was geared to buy a product which was promoted inside the report. The report didn't do what it said, it was over 80% fluff, and when they did get to the point, they said ignore it because it isn't that good.

    I do know that I won't buy from them again.
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    • Profile picture of the author Rich Mann
      These are the type of ads and claims that here in the United States can get you in a lot of hot water with the FTC as well as opening yourself up to a lawsuit. Any promotion that represents itself as being "FREE" and then charges a fee (unless specifically stated in the terms) to receive it cannot legally be called free.

      I'm not an attorney but I have done a great deal of research on this topic. There have been many marketers brought before the FTC for misrepresenting the terms and conditions of purchase. Even misrepresenting the achievable results from purchasing the product can bring a world of hurt down on you.

      You're not immune from the FTC if you live in a country other than the US either. If your product is sold in the United States the FTC as well as a number of other agencies have jurisdiction.

      So if your going to offer something as a "gift", "free" or "bonus" you need to clearly spell out the terms and conditions.

      I agree Marcia. There are too many marketers using these words to make a buck. I've seen some well known marketers using "Get my $XXXX thousand dollar product FREE on a CD" (fine print) Just pay the $19.95 (add your own price) for shipping and handling, and then turning around and bragging about making hundreds of thousands of dollars from their promotion. When's the last time you shipped a CD through the mail that cost anywhere even close to that. And I won't even talk about all the "forced continuity" going around.

      Thanks for the post.

      Rich
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  • Profile picture of the author George Wright
    Hi All,

    Great discussion, I haven't had my half cup yet so this is probably going to be another "I'll regret this" post. However even though it appears that everyone in the thread may be agreeing we are not.

    Our mental processes are all different and even when we proclaim "we agree" we are agreeing to what we think we are agreeing to.

    Hi Marcia,

    I do see your point. However, and I did not see that email yet, there could be another side.

    What about "FREE, just pay shipping?"

    What about "Bonus, buy this and get that at half price" or $1 or whatever. It is a bonus if it normally costs $10 and because you bought product A at Regular price you get product B for a lesser price.

    As far as gift goes, "My gift to you is a 75% discount if you buy today."

    Personally, I don't do any of the above, at least not yet, however I'm not offended when marketers do it.

    I know the perfume counters in the local shopping malls have changed the meaning of the word "sample." I once overheard a lady ask for a "Free Sample," and the clerk snapped at her, "Mam, Sample means free, you don't have to ask for a free sample, just say sample!" Now the same stores have nice little signs up, "Samples, 50 cents each."

    As far as "bending" the words goes. I guess Lewis Carroll summed it up. "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less." -- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass.

    Of course we don't want to overdo it and end up like Mr. Dumpty.

    One only needs to follow the link in your sig. Marcia, to see that many who have posted in this thread don't agree with your definition of free. You offer "free" eBooks and other "free" things if I join your membership for $69 to $99 a month.

    I'm not saying you are wrong here I'm just saying your definition of "free" is not the same as others who have posted here in your thread.

    For instance Bev. Said, "Marcia, I totally agree with you. I had someone saying they were giving a free bonus which was worth 4 figures, but to get it you not only had to pay the $1 but sign up for their forced continuity program of $97 a month."

    I'm not trying to foment an argument here I'm just saying that sometimes we "call out" another marketer for offences that are based on our perceptions of words. Like Mr. Carroll, "Every word... means exactly what we choose it to mean.... nothing more, nothing less."

    Respectfully,

    George Wright
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    • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
      George,

      I'm not going to participate a game of "gotcha."

      If someone says, "Once you are a member of the country club, you receive free unlimited coffee," that is not bending the meaning of any words and is clearly different from saying in the headline of an advertisement or an email, "Free unlimited coffee!" and then you click through and see only on the payment page that you're required to join the country club first.

      Thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify my comment, and that's all I am going to say in reply to your post.

      Marcia Yudkin
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      • Profile picture of the author Rezbi
        Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

        George,

        I'm not going to participate a game of "gotcha."

        If someone says, "Once you are a member of the country club, you receive free unlimited coffee," that is not bending the meaning of any words and is clearly different from saying in the headline of an advertisement or an email, "Free unlimited coffee!" and then you click through and see only on the payment page that you're required to join the country club first.

        Thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify my comment, and that's all I am going to say in reply to your post.

        Marcia Yudkin
        I'd have to agree here as all the emails which say free and then expect you to buy something in order to get their 'free' goodies anre completely misleading - I just delete them now.

        In fact, I tend to opt out of quite a few of their newsletters now.

        However, I don't agree with somone's comment that free should be completely unconditional as, in the business world, there's no such thing.

        Heck, I give things away to get a name on my list and I know a ton of other people do the same, including people on this forum.

        What it boils down to is that, when you pay for something, you actually give/lose money.

        When you give up your details you can always opt out if you don't like the follow-ups.
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      • Profile picture of the author George Wright
        Marcia,

        No Gotcha intended. I was not pointing out any discrepancy in your statements and your sales page. I was pointing out that some who posted in your thread were agreeing with you and yet they were not agreeing with what you do. There was more than one post like that.

        Also, a headline or subject line is limited. We can only impart so much information in that short space. I clicked your OP because it said, "Free means zero cost; "gift" means zero cost; and "bonus" means zero cost."

        I followed the logical progression of 1. Being drawn into your post by way of your headline, to 2. reading your post. I found it interesting along with the other posts in the thread. Then 3. Your sig caught my attention and 4. I ended up at your great sales page, only to find that although your definition of free may be different from the eMail you discussed in your OP your definition is different from others who posted here.

        Finally, rather than just ignoring my ah ha moment that here was a group having a discussion, seemingly agreeing but in my perception not, I decided to post about this most interesting (to me anyway) subject of perception.

        Again, No Gotcha intended,

        George Wright

        Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

        George,

        I'm not going to participate a game of "gotcha."

        If someone says, "Once you are a member of the country club, you receive free unlimited coffee," that is not bending the meaning of any words and is clearly different from saying in the headline of an advertisement or an email, "Free unlimited coffee!" and then you click through and see only on the payment page that you're required to join the country club first.

        Thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify my comment, and that's all I am going to say in reply to your post.

        Marcia Yudkin
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        "The first chapter sells the book; the last chapter sells the next book." Mickey Spillane
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      • Profile picture of the author Lance K
        Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

        George,

        I'm not going to participate a game of "gotcha."

        If someone says, "Once you are a member of the country club, you receive free unlimited coffee," that is not bending the meaning of any words and is clearly different from saying in the headline of an advertisement or an email, "Free unlimited coffee!" and then you click through and see only on the payment page that you're required to join the country club first.

        Thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify my comment, and that's all I am going to say in reply to your post.

        Marcia Yudkin

        But the coffee is free in either case.

        Seriously though, I see both sides. But I tend to side with you Marcia. Because even though the coffee is free in both instances, the focus of the advertising is different.
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  • Profile picture of the author Keith Kogane
    I agree with George - language is very malleable, and lots of people tack all kinds of personal meanings and contexts onto words that aren't necessarily part of the strict definition. Heck, those subtleties are why copywriting is as much an art as it is a science.

    For example, the words you used in the subject: free, bonus, and gift.

    "Free" to me means "I have a bunch, just take one, anyone can have it"

    "Gift" to me means "This has value, but I'm giving it directly to YOU"

    "Bonus" means "You can get it at no cost, but only as part of some other deal"

    None of those things necessarily mean "zero cost" - I've given away furniture on Craigslist before for "Free" but they had to get their own truck and come pick it up. That's not "zero cost" but you can't say it's not "free".

    Now say someone DID say they wanted a couch, but wanted a chair too. Tell you what - if you come and get the couch, you can take the chair too. I was going to keep it, but you're doing me a favor. That's a bonus.

    Now say when he shows up, he happens to glance at my bookshelf and likes some knicknack I have on display. I say "Take it - as a gift for helping me get rid of this stuff". That's a gift because it wasn't available for him to ask. It was mine to offer, but not ON offer.

    Instead of thinking about how the words are misused, use it as a lesson in how people can be convinced of the morphability of certain words in certain contexts. The marketing lesson isn't in noticing that they're doing it wrong - the lesson is in figuring out if it's working, and how to improve upon it.

    But I'm not saying anything anyone didn't already know.
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  • Profile picture of the author Don Schenk
    I am not an attorney. Heck, I don't even look like one. :-) So with that said, I am thinking about a seminar I attended a few years ago, and another one last week about what we can and can't say in our advertising.

    "Free" has a meaning of zero cost and zero obligation.

    "Free with" means the item is available without additional cost once a customer has made a particular purchase.

    Both are allowed if it is spelled out correctly.

    :-Don
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  • Profile picture of the author Trader54
    So if I say I will mail you a check for a $1,000 with no cost to you then turn around and ask for your mailing address all of sudden you feel its not free???
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    • Profile picture of the author rapidscc
      Originally Posted by Trader54 View Post

      So if I say I will mail you a check for a $1,000 with no cost to you then turn around and ask for your mailing address all of sudden you feel its not free???
      LOL..say that to me and I'll even give you my neighbors mailing address...

      Here's my view from a marketing perspective..

      "Free" means I will give you something but I will require you to sign up to my list so that I would not get burned out giving away free stuff and getting nothing in return.

      "Bonus" means here's an additional list of MRR/PLR products to entice you to buy from me and so that the total perceived value of my products will be greater. I'll even say it's a ONE TIME DEAL!

      "Gift" means if you buy this product from my link you can email me and I'll give you more products so as to assure that you only buy from my link..

      That is my view from a marketing perspective..but actually I do give away some products without requiring anything directly..but in the end when you give away something there's always something that you get in return..even if it's only popularity..

      my .02

      Raul Omar Diaz
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      • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
        So now you're all warned...

        When you say "free gift", it had better cost twice nothing




        Frank
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  • Profile picture of the author seasoned
    Gift certainly implies free. Bonus implies something ADDITIONAL for no EXTRA cost.

    As for FREE?!?!? The FTC in the US has codified that free means NO COST! And they HAVE fought people claiming the contrary, and WON! BTW reasd this CAREFULLY! It also covers some OTHER gimics advocated by some and says THEY are illegal.

    FTC GUIDE CONCERNING USE OF THE WORD ``FREE'' AND SIMILAR REPRESENTATIONS

    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
    Banned
    Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

    When you talk about a "bonus," it means it costs nothing.

    When you charge a customer who has bought something else, $1 for an additional item, it is not a bonus.

    Marcia Yudkin
    Well, actually, if you don't call it a FREE bonus, offering a higher value product for a dollar is a bonus. It's done all the time and nothing wrong with it as long as it doesn't say FREE bonus.
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  • Profile picture of the author Matt Bard
    I agree in principle, but the world does not always operate in absolutes.

    I think we need to act on the general acceptance of a word rather than the true dictionary definition.

    A tomato is a fruit but we will always call it a vegetable.
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