Experiences Are The New Luxury Goods
When Will Dean, CEO of the $100M Tough Mudder obstacle race franchise, made that statement I stopped everything I was doing to play it back several times. He went on to say,

"Experiences are the new luxury goods. Experiences and memories APPRECIATE in value."

The Spartan Race team admitted another interesting thing about their west coast version of Tough Mudder called Spartan Races. Joe DeSena is very clear about the role social media plays in his company's success. "Oh I don't thinks this (his valuable race franchise) exists without social media," he said correctly. 

Social media is the "appreciation" Dean noted. We Internet marketers would be wise to listen very carefully to text and sub-text here. 

Text - Contemporary life is empty of character defining challenges. Computers create distance from others and essential pieces of and knowledge about ourselves. Are we capable, can we go on when it doesn't seem like we can? Can we stay calm and carry on. 

Sub-Text - Collective experiences are heightened by the tribe, the community, intensifying the memory and creating shared experience and bonding with friends and strangers. Nothing is as motivating as A COMMON ENEMY. 

Martin's Ride To Cure Cancer
For 60 days in the summer of 2010 the Martin's Ride team faced new obstacles and challenges daily as we rode bicycles 3,300 miles across America. There were moments when death was possible. Coming down mountains at greater than 60MPH is a "no error" zone. 

Ironically the most precarious moments were not on bicycles but in the RV on a slippery mountain coming down into the Grand Staircase from 9,000 feet in a driving hailstorm and no margin for error on the tiny shoulder of a road now alive with torrents of water and mud. Hours earlier we wondered what it would be like to be on a mountain like that in just such a storm - not fun as it turns out and very dangerous.

I bring up Martin's Ride because the experience perfectly illustrates Tough Mudder's CEO's "Experiences are the new luxury goods," idea. Earlier today I suggested Gilmore's book The Experience Economy is an important book. Mudder's CEO agrees and is building a profitable and sizable business recovering connection and building obstacles BACK into our lives. 

You may not ever imagine yourself paying to have someone make you climb through mud, but over a million have and both companies have growth curves many would kill for fueled by word-of-mouth now going nuclear thanks to mass media, amazing visuals that play well on social media and mobile (SMobile once again) and creation of memories that appreciate. 

Practical SMB Implications
You may be thinking, "I own a service business so this idea of creating experiences that appreciate doesn't apply," and you would be dead wrong. When I grew up in Greenwich a man down the road named Stew Leonards built his family's dairy into a retailing giant by making his store fun and memorable. The experience of Stew Leonard's was worth the long lines and pain. A Stew Leonard's memory appreciated, a trip to A&P not so much. 

Walt Disney was creating the family equivalent of The Mudder in the 1960s. We can identify some traits Disney shares with these new challenge entrepreneurs including:

* Fantasy must be part of any appreciable experience.
* Set up the experience so it can be recorded, shared and replayed.
* Make sure the experience is COMMUNAL.
* Foster collaboration and a sense of team whenever possible. 
* Luxury can and should live within ANY hardship. 
* Make sure the experience is easily SHARED. 
* Create takeaways (medals, gifts, t-shirts) to provoke memory.
* Find pain points (cleanliness for Disney, challenge for mudders) and master them (mudders = hard enough but not so hard, Disney = clean and safe).

Once a week on Martin's ride we booked a room in a Hampton Inn. This was our "luxury inside of a hardship". Note how every freezing person gets their own high tech blanket in the Spartan story. When we reached Colorado I purchased expensive Hammer nutritional supplements because they helped AND due to the "luxury" psychology created. They (the Hammer gels and powders) became awards that reinforced the experience even as they rewarded it. 

I see the "imagineers" trend at Atlantic BT too. The genius of putting down concrete so scooters can fly from one end of the building to another moves a potentially boring web design company into an exciting experiential realm. I will never forget the infectious energy I experienced walking into The Atlantic BT center for the first time several years ago.

 "Wow I want to WORK here," was my first reaction so the environment is aligned with and elevating the product we sell. Boring websites don't scale or make money, so not only do we NOT make them but our environment has excitement and risk built in, the experience appreciates. 

When evaluating Internet marketers, my advice is find the imagineers, the people pushing boundaries. If a company can redefine "office" then something that starts exciting such as a website should be a breeze.

 My advice to those playing this game is to remember two things: 

* The "cool office' bar is always going UP.
* The IDEA of an exciting environment must also translate to products excitement too or the only thing created is cognitive dissonance.

This is the, "Walk must match Talk," issue every company faces. Once everyone has a Foosball table then the competitive arena moves. The Foosball table was always only a physical manifestation of a desire to be non-standard, to break tradition. 

In an experience economy knowing what your clients want to

1. BUY. 
2. Live vicariously through you but never actually partake in (like rolling in the mud say). 
3. Create appreciating memories from shared experience. 

 ... is the RUB of a our real time, highly social and no secrets business environment. 

Experience Economy Marketers Ask These Question
* What is the experience of our company?
* What experiences are we turning into memories for our team and clients?
* How are we impacting our Unique Customer Aspirations (UCAs).
* How do our customers learn, change and grow because of us? 
* How well do we understand, segment and speak to their UCAs?

If this statement sounds like we just added a new dimension to Internet marketing and competition then this experience has become an appreciating memory. 

Welcome to the real time, social, mobile and ever changing experience economy. 
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