The Three Capitals of Pricing – Human, Systems and Social Capital
In this paper we explore the possibility, heretofore unexplored in the marketing literature, that firms “invest funds” in their pricing processes. This builds on some of the recent economic work on the costs of price adjustment. To do this we undertook a two-year, cross- disciplinary, ethnographic study on the nature of investments made by senior managers to enhance the effectiveness of the pricing processes within their firms. We discovered at least three distinct types of investments that managers at these firms made to price more effectively, which we term as the three capitals of pricing - human capital, systems capital and social capital. Our evidence suggests that pricing is really about managing both prices and investments in the pricing capital used to set and adjust those prices. The existence of these three forms of pricing capital provides a new perspective on pricing strategy, suggesting that firms compete on prices simultaneously in three different ways within their organizations. First, they compete on whether to invest in pricing capital versus or other areas of capital investment, such as plant, equipment, etc. Second, they decide what form of pricing capital to invest in – human, systems or social. Third, they set and adjust prices constrained by the existing pricing capital they have in place at the time of their pricing actions. We discuss the implications of these three forms of pricing capital and these new perspectives on pricing for the marketing, economics and strategy literature.
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