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Marketing and products that celebrate the moment

As the online world becomes ever more immediate, consumers are becoming more and more expectant of content and product that is both instantly gratifying and experience-oriented.

On the 3rd of November, Seth Godin announced that a set of his five books housed in a wooden box was available for sale on his site. He stipulated that the availability of the set was extremely limited (there were only 800 available) and that they would only be available once.

‘My goal was to make a rare item, even if it doesn’t make any money. More and more, I’m thinking of books as artifacts and souvenirs, as convenient and collectible packages for ideas that spread,’ said Godin.

The box set sold out completely in under 4.5 hours; that’s approximately three per minute by Godin’s estimate. The site is populated primarily by Seth Godin fans; people are very likely to already own at least one of his books. Why did such a peculiar set sell so quickly? It appealed to the impulse of his readers. It wasn’t the notion of owning the actual books that appealed to the 800; they were buying the moment of limited access that identified them as dedicated Seth Godin fans. This may sound a bit odd, but there’s something valuable at work in attaching value to a particular experience, even if that experience is only the purchase of a physical product.

This trend of emphasizing the value of immediacy is reflected in the way the music industry has suffered in 2009. Most of the ideal demographic for contemporary chart music now favor’s the option of an MP3 over other formats. It’s much more convenient, it’s cheaper, and it’s attainable instantly without the inconvenience of a time-costly trip to a CD store. This new method of music distribution and the way in which it has outdated the need for CDs for many consumers has also resulted in the placement of a higher value in live performance. MP3s are disposable and feel inconsequential in comparison to the fleeting, one-off experience of attending a concert.

In ABS statistics for retail sales in October, the strongest figures were in Cafes, Restaurants, and Takeaway food services (a rise of 1.1%) against a drop in Food Retailing (-0.1%) and Other retailing (-0.1%). This demonstrates the growing tendency of people to spend more money on experiences; it’s much more fun to eat out than to buy from a supermarket and cook at home.

A drop-in ‘Other Retail’ in favor of cafes and restaurants suggests people are also becoming less inclined to spend money on physical things. There is an ecological mindset associated with this; production and consumption of physical objects are more ecologically harmful. Also, as physical objects are more plentiful and are more permanent than experience, the novelty wears off quickly.

Experiential goods, on the other hand, are fleeting, and therefore more valuable in proportion to their cost to the consumer.

Also, in an age where physical objects are relatively abundant, experiences seem even more worthwhile in comparison.

This goes some way to explaining the spike in popularity of the pop-up restaurant in 2009. Pop-up restaurants not only provided a way for entrepreneurs to combat the GFC (lower setup costs, less rent) but also capitalized very cleverly on the appeal of an exclusive time-specific experience. A good example of this is The Pond in Darlinghurst, Sydney. A lot of work has been put into marketing the restaurant as an alluring and mysterious venue, but despite this, there are no plans to continue the restaurant after its Pure Blonde sponsorship runs out in January 2010: it’s strictly and intentionally a temporary thing. Another example is 7-meter bar, an installation-oriented street bar that’s open through January as part of Sydney’s Laneways By George! festival.

Another perspective on the value of experience is businesses like Bag An Image that offer the opportunity to rent handbags and jewelers for special occasions and outings. This idea is clever as it targets a large section of the population that would like to be able to buy Chanel or Louis Vuitton but simply can’t afford it. It makes sense to rent luxury goods as it’s cheaper, but also allows the opportunity of augmenting the fleeting experience of a special occasion.

There’s a similar vogue in car sharing. Buying a luxury car is absurdly expensive. Maintaining it yearly is even more painful. This is why luxury car share is a strong business idea, long-established all over the UK, Europe, and the US by companies like Classic Car Club. not only is it convenient, but you rent the experience of driving a brilliant car, thereby making the occasion for the rental that much more special.

The recent proliferation of the use of ‘mystery’ in marketing campaigns is also a nod in the direction of ‘Nowism’. Products that are readily available have a much lower impact on the consumer and less longevity in terms of purchase satisfaction. By purchasing a t-shirt on Hipstery, the buyer is committing themselves more to the anticipation of unveiling the mystery than the owning of the product itself.

As more of the world becomes accustomed to the immediacy associated with digital content and increasingly disillusioned with physical goods, marketing and products that celebrate experience will become more and more prominent. Keep this trend in mind when planning your next campaign. #

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