There is an interesting article on Times Online talking about an “experience economy.” (link via CPH127) It describes the new economy as being driven by experience rather than products or services. In other words, people are increasingly willing to pay extra for a product that is attached to an “experience” rather than basing our buying decisions on price alone. We pay six bucks for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. We pay extra for an iPod. It says “contrary to what companies think, not all consumers are focused on bagging the cheapest product.” The question is, why would their be an increasing need from people to have an experience attached to the way they spend their money. Do we just expect more for our money? No, I think it is something different than just the desire to have more, more, more. Underneath the “experience economy” is something more than simply materialism tied to an entertainment element. It is more than simply wanting memories, or the desire to be a member of an exclusive club. The real reason that there is a push for “experience” is because there is a basic spiritual need that isn’t being filled in our lives. The article puts it this way, “There’s this emerging idea of ourselves as projects — we are no longer labeled by our education or gender, or born into a social situation that we then play out for the rest of our lives.” At the risk of being labeled a “true Gen-Xer”
again, I will quote Fight Club:
“We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact.”
And as we awaken from the sleep of materialism, we are still spending money. Only now our money is connected to a spiritual desire. Instead of simply amassing more and more stuff, we use our money in an attempt to meet our spiritual needs: We want to improve ourselves. We want to meet people with similar interests. We want to create something original. We want to connect emotionally with something. We want to build, hack, remix. We want to share. We want to feel.
If I am getting to touchy feely for you, let me bring it back to an economic model. Some businesses are realizing that there is huge profit in satisfying the consumer’s new appetite for experience. The article says “The hippest companies of the moment… are all admired within the business industry for their ability to connect emotionally with their consumers and for proving that people will pay a premium to buy into their world.” Do you think it is a coincidence that so many products are trying to sell a lifestyle instead of a product? Next time you see a commercial for a car, clothing, a soft drink, shoes, you name it, look real hard at how they position the product. Empty promises maybe, but it isn’t advertising’s fault. It is actually the symptom of an advancing society. We are beginning to realize that we are more than just consumers and many of us are trying to figure out what exactly that is.