Exceptional experiences that pack a story to tell are the new luxury marketing offers. (And there is a lesson here for all businesses, marketing to the affluent or not, so read on.)
People with disposable, six-figure incomes are spending money on luxury goods that used to be reserved for the “upper crust” of society. These are the mass affluent, and they have been written about in exhausting detail.
Ages ago, in order to come away with that uber-trendy LV bag, you had to go to a boutique where you were treated like a king or queen before receiving your prize. At full retail price. Nowadays, it is as likely to have been purchased at CostCo or a discounter on the web.
This democratization of luxury goods has destroyed a major selling point: Exclusivity.
Cynical or not, most luxury goods are sold at a premium in large part due to the social message they communicate. When “everyone” has access to what used to make your social group “unique” … the symbols begin to lose their meaning.
BTW, in case you have your nose up at the “snobs” who would drop $2k on a handbag to show off … keep in mind that everything from tribal tattoos, hybrid vehicles, fair trade coffee and Apple Computers are sold the same way.
Identifying your “tribe” through your “stuff” isn’t a rich person’s disease … it’s a condition of social humans. You and I included. Deal with it.
So … with luxury goods becoming less exclusive and more available with every passing day, their value as symbols decreases. When that happens, the people who used to value the symbols seek out the next big thing.
Today, that “thing” takes the form of experiences.
The value of an experience is not limited to the experience itself. It includes the story you get to tell about the experience from that point forward.
Two weeks ago, I flew home from a speaking gig in Dallas.
I’m not a “suit guy” … but the man sitting next to me had a stunning suit on and I told him I loved it. What followed was a 30 minute discussion about how he had flown three times to London, spent the better part of a day each time with a Saville Row tailor, and almost 9 months later this suit was the result. Good story.
He almost certainly paid upwards of $10,000 for the entire experience.
Could he have have received a similar quality suit from a Washington D.C. tailor (or a Saville Row tailor who travelled to DC)? Certainly. For less money? Absolutely. But would it have been nearly as good a story to tell? Not even close.
Let’s turn this to geek culture.
Everyone in the blogging world is aware of Hugh’s project with Thomas Mahon, English Cut. Is there anyone out there who does not believe that an English Cut suit does not carry a premium in Silicon Valley … not only because of the quality … but because of the story it allows the wearer to tell? Ozwald Boateng may be hot stuff in LA, but my money is on English Cut being the one people in the cutting edge world of tech “get.”
In case you are wondering, I’m not writing all of this to talk about going bespoke.
I don’t care what you sell. When you engineer your offerings to include an exceptional experience and a great story to tell about it … you have a point of differentiation and the seed of incredible word-of-mouth marketing it’ll take ages for the competition to catch up to.