Marketing Mistake: Indianapolis Zoo Prices

I recently wrote about how the airlines are very close to charging you more just to sit down – which I thought was ridiculous. But then I went and saw that the Indianapolis Zoo has similar logic to their policy.

It wasn’t the Indianapolis Zoo prices that prompted this post, it was the feeling I had when I left that made me wonder if they understand the value of integrating price changes with value changes. When word-of-mouth is crucial to your operation’s success, problems like these turn into a major marketing mistake.

Companies raise prices for a variety of reasons, the worst of which is when it seems arbitrary. Gas stations raise and lower prices daily in accordance with the economics of that commodity. Retailers will often raise prices as a pass-through of shipping and transportation increases. But the real winners are the companies that raise prices because they ultimately raise value.

That brings me to the Indianapolis Zoo prices. I recently attended the zoo, the day after they raised prices for the summer. In fact, the price went from $8.50 to $15.50. That price change shows up on their website and in their pamphlets as the summer price increase – which you clearly know months in advance. There’s nothing in their literature about the extra value they’re providing because of the summer change.

Unfortunately, the marketing squad and the operations department must not have been communicating. For this seasonal price change to make sense, there must surely be new stuff to see and do. I was OK with the raised prices until I came upon a bunch of exhibits that weren’t yet open, bathrooms that weren’t open, water fountains that weren’t usable and their brand new Warthog exhibit without . . . warthogs.

In their defense I’ll say they did open a bat exhibit, which was a small 8 x 12 pen where 6 bats were hanging. And they also opened an Orchid exhibit. Not too shabby, eh? Well it appears the bats were placed in an existing cage that once held some other animal – and the Orchid exhibit. . . it wasn’t in the zoo. It was outside and was free to all who ventured to see it.

As I spoke about in my post Adding Value with Giant Marshmallows, you should not feel you’re earned the right to raise prices – unless you know customers will appreciate the added value to their experience.

So I left the Indianapolis Zoo feeling jipped.  I got to pay double what yesterday’s crowd had to pay – yet the experience was just the same. What is the likelihood that future exhibits will garner my attention?

My question to you, to answer below, is are you looking at your company from your customer’s eyes? Are you judging the value of their experience from a cost perspective? from a user experience perspective? And are you taking into account the perceived value you must be providing when you raise prices? Start the discussion with your thoughts below.

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