August 21, 2018

Camp Wood

Bar Harbor is a delightful little seaside town on Mount Desert Island in Maine. It’s a popular tourist destination and home to the largest parts of Acadia National Park, including Cadillac Mountain, the highest point within twenty-five miles of the coastline of the Eastern United States.

Apparently it’s a popular destination for campers, because we went there last week and the main road onto the island was peppered with signs advertising campfire wood for sale.

As we made our way to the hotel, it seemed like every other home had a folksy hand-painted “camp wood $3” sign at the end of their driveway. I saw at least a dozen of them.

Other than the choice of paint color, there was little variation from sign to sign. It was weird. They all said the exact same thing, including the price. Each was virtually undifferentiated from the next - a total commodity purchase.

Since I’m a pricing nerd, this got me thinking about questions like:

Then my mind then took the next logical step, and I asked myself:

If I were one of these firewood sellers, how would I differentiate myself in order to charge a premium?

We weren’t camping so I wasn’t in the market for camp wood on this particular occasion. But I’ve started LOTS of campfires in my day. Which is to say, I have experienced the agony and the ecstasy of trying to get a roaring blaze going while a coterie of hungry, cold, wet, and increasingly cranky people look on.

Given my history of sometimes failing to get a good fire going promptly in a high (ish) pressure situation, the following firewood sign rewrites occurred to me:

Okay, I might have gone a little overboard toward the end there, but hopefully you see the pattern.

Speak to your buyer’s desired outcome rather than providing a generic description of your product.

Sure, campers probably want firewood.

But why?

Maybe to get their kids roasting marshmallows ASAP. Or to dry their swimsuits before they climb into their sleeping bags for the night. Or to sizzle up a big pan of bacon and heat a pot of black coffee at sunrise.

Even my first headline rewrite would likely jump out from the rest of the “Camp Wood $3” signs by implying (truthfully, I hope) that all the other firewood available on the street was not as dry as mine, so I can command a $2 premium because it’ll light faster and burn better.

What’s the moral of the story?

Talk about benefits, not features.