When Did Value Start to Mean Cheap?

September 3, 2019

I think the greatest compliment a person can give or receive is that they are valued. I think the greatest compliment a product or a service can receive is that it is of good value. So when did value start to mean cheap?

We often hear building products referred to as a ‘value product line’ or, worse yet, ‘builders’ grade’, another misinformed description for cheap. By definition this is simply wrong. By practice this must stop.

As a noun, value means the importance, worth, or usefulness of something – “your support is of great value.”

As a verb, value means to consider (someone or something) to be important or beneficial; have a high opinion of – “she had come to value her privacy and independence.”

None of these commonly held definitions say cheap.

Cheap is defined as low price, inferior, poor quality, substandard, and distasteful. This is not a definition of value, to the contrary.

When asked, more than 2,400 building professionals outlined the following list of brand attributes they valued:

  • Quality
  • Performance
  • Simplicity (ease of use)
  • Fair price (Note: not low price)
  • Availability
  • Style
  • Service and warranty
  • Sales marketing support
  • Brand reputation

These are consistent responses across regions, product types, and project sizes that help building professionals define value. (Source: Hanley Wood Builder Brand Study)

I think you can see the irony in using the word value as a definition of an inferior product or service. If not, let me try again and make this more personal.

If you say “I value your opinion” are you actually saying “your opinion is substandard?”

When you tell someone close to you that you “value their friendship” are you saying their friendship is distasteful?

No, of course not. Then why are we saying a value product line is cheap?

Moving forward, I would like to see value products and services defined by the list of brand attributes list above. Anything less is a substandard product or service. Anything more is a luxury product or service. Value or valuable products and services are the standard by which all others are measured.

Agree or disagree? I invite you to share your opinions on when value started to mean cheap.

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