Alpha-Diver logo and Hunter Thurman image.Hunter Thurman

Founder and President, Alpha-Diver

When will consumers hit a wall on accepting price increases?

Across organizations, we continue to hear a common question: When will the music stop on price increases? For many categories, consumers have continued to accept rising prices. And in many cases, consumption has actually increased as prices have risen. The traditional elasticity models are upside down.

For the companies and categories benefiting, there are clearly no complaints. However, there IS a mounting concern that, since we can’t explain this consumer behavior, we need to be wary of a tipping point, cliff, wall or other unfavorable metaphor consumers may encounter that causes consumption to plummet.

It’s a real concern, and a confounding question. But there is a simple reframe that can empower teams to approach this challenge by focusing on the things they CAN control (unlike the economy, debt ceiling, flu season, etc.).

Simply, it goes back to an old-school term which most marketers are familiar with: the value proposition.

We recently released a report called The Bev 50, ranking the top U.S. beverage brands based on the consumer passion and behavior they drive. Gatorade ranks No. 1. While several sports drinks fared well in the ratings, none touched the emotional voltage achieved by Gatorade. 


Because while most brands sell effective hydration, Gatorade sells victory by the ounce.

The brand’s value proposition doesn’t sell functions. It sells FEELS.

And when we think back to the macro question above regarding pricing, this reframes the discussion.

How much is optimal hydration worth?

Now, how much is victory worth?

By making the brand intrinsic to the person, suddenly it’s perceived to be worth far more. And stepping back to the question of “When will the music stop on accepting price increases?,” the question is actually “How do we make sure the music doesn’t stop for OUR business?”

In real life, consumers and shoppers won’t simply stop consuming all at once and across categories. They’ll make tougher choices, sacrifice those things that are perceived as less valuable and make trade-offs where it doesn’t matter as much in their heart-of-hearts.

Don’t think about activation and promotion as a way to “cost less.” Think of them as ways to “provide more.” More fun, more unique experiences, more of the feels. Focus on the emotional connection and your brands will be the last on the list of things to sacrifice.

After all, a tall glass of water provides hydration but it sure doesn’t provide victory.