It’s been nearly twenty years since MasterCard launched one of the most iconic advertising campaigns in recent memory. You know it, right? Priceless: “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard.”

Empirically we know this claim isn’t unique: Visa can buy “everything else” just as easily, and American Express–although not as ubiquitous–certainly is preferred by a desirable market segment.

Why, then, was this campaign so successful? Because MasterCard focused on its value, not its price.

The professionals at Deloitte offer a helpful distinction:

Value refers to the importance or usefulness of a product or service to a specific customer or group of customers; Price is the way to capture the value of a product or service offering in the market through the mechanism of exchange.

In other words, value focuses on buyers’ wants and aspirations, not on buyers’ price to purchase (aka costs). Does anyone remember how much the day at the ballpark cost the father in the MasterCard commercial? No.

Our industry is highly experienced at counting (and cutting) costs and putting a price tag on our products (aka timekeepers) and services. Any law firm could calculate the cost to attend a ballgame (although it probably would not want to put the number in a RFP response).

What’s missing is the meaning of the ballgame. Very few firms are focused on understanding value and creating value. The ACC Value Challenge gave the industry a strong start seven years ago. Unfortunately, the conversations still focus too heavily on price and not on value.

Until the legal industry embraces value, pricing pressure will continue.

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