You are here

Product Costs

15 January, 2016 - 09:19

The costs of the product—its inputs—including the amount spent on product development, testing, and packaging required have to be taken into account when a pricing decision is made. So do the costs related to promotion and distribution. For example, when a new offering is launched, its promotion costs can be very high because people need to be made aware that it exists. Thus, the offering’s stage in the product life cycle can affect its price. Keep in mind that a product may be in a different stage of its life cycle in other markets. For example, while sales of the iPhone remain fairly constant in the United States, the Koreans felt the phone was not as good as their current phones and was somewhat obsolete. Similarly, if a company has to open brick-and-mortar storefronts to distribute and sell the offering, this too will have to be built into the price the firm must charge for it.

The point at which total costs equal total revenue is known as the breakeven point (BEP). For a company to be profitable, a company’s revenue must be greater than its total costs. If total costs exceed total revenue, the company suffers a loss.

Total costs include both fixed costs and variable costs. Fixed costs, or overhead expenses, are costs that a company must pay regardless of its level of production or level of sales. A company’s fixed costs include items such as rent, leasing fees for equipment, contracted advertising costs, and insurance. As a student, you may also incur fixed costs such as the rent you pay for an apartment. You must pay your rent whether you stay there for the weekend or not. Variable costs are costs that change with a company’s level of production and sales. Raw materials, labor, and commissions on units sold are examples of variable costs. You, too, have variable costs, such as the cost of gasoline for your car or your utility bills, which vary depending on how much you use.

Consider a small company that manufactures specialty DVDs and sells them through different retail stores. The manufacturer’s selling price (MSP) is $15, which is what the retailers pay for the DVDs. The retailers then sell the DVDs to consumers for an additional charge. The manufacturer has the following charges:

Copyright and distribution charges for the titles


Package and label designs for the DVDs


Advertising and promotion costs


Reproduction of DVDs

$5 per unit

Labels and packaging

$1 per unit


$1 per unit

In order to determine the breakeven point, you must first calculate the fixed and variable costs. To make sure all costs are included, you may want to highlight the fixed costs in one color (e.g., green) and the variable costs in another color (e.g., blue). Then, using the formulas below, calculate how many units the manufacturer must sell to break even.

The formula for BEP is as follows:

BEP = total fixed costs (FC) ÷ contribution per unit (CU) contribution per unit = MSP – variable costs (VC)BEP = $200,000 ÷ ($15 – $7) = $200,000 ÷ $8 = 25,000 units to break even

To determine the breakeven point in dollars, you simply multiply the number of units to break even by the MSP. In this case, the BEP in dollars would be 25,000 units times $15, or $375,000.


In addition to setting a pricing objective, a firm has to look at a number of factors before setting its prices. These factors include the offering’s costs, the customers whose needs it is designed to meet, the external environment—such as the competition, the economy, and government regulations—and other aspects of the marketing mix, such as the nature of the offering, the stage of its product life cycle, and its promotion and distribution. In international markets, firms must look at environmental factors and customers’ buying behavior in each market. For a company to be profitable, revenues must exceed total costs.


  1. What factors do organizations consider when making price decisions?
  2. How do a company’s competitors affect the pricing decisions the firm will make?
  3. What is the difference between fixed costs and variable costs?