Not too many years ago, it was a struggle for most people to get their basic needs met. My dad, for instance, started working on the neighbouring farm when he was 6, in return for 2 meals a day – oatmeal, potatoes – simple things to fill your stomach. His parents did not have the money, nor the forethought, to care for him among many other siblings. His children, however, have had all that they needed, and we, like most of our generation are not concerned with the basic needs, or the simple foods. No, we have had access to it all just like most people in our generation in this part of the world.
Thus, when we want to do something special, we look for things which are different, unique, things which have an air of exclusivity. We look for experiences shared, not with everyone else, but with a select group based on our interests and our identity. Maybe we keep it to ourselves until after the fact and then post pictures on social media as support for our persona, the face we show the world. In the Western world, goods and services are commoditised at an ever increasing rate and at the same time, we wish to stand out from the crowd, we want to feel special.
Indeed, as Pine and Gilmore have explained, we have gone from commodities and goods (the economy of things) over services (the economy of actions) to now experiences and transformation (the economy of meaning). That means that for the most part, the steps up until the economy of meaning are taken for granted.
From Commodity to Transformation
In order for experiences to appeal to people in this situation, when designing experiences it should be considered what can make this experience unique. In most cases, it won’t be possible to make a brand new category of experience. Most fall into categories such as meals, travel, music, culture, nature and so forth and probably that is how it will largely stay, so if you as a business want to make money by creating something exclusive, something unique, you have to identify some areas which could make your product stand out from the rest of them.
An obvious example often used as an example is the location: You offer people a coffee, not only served hot in a beautiful cup, by pleasant staff, but you offer it in the Eiffel tower and as such, you’re offering something which people can only buy from you. The experience of eating an Italian pizza in Italy is more unique than eating it in London, probably. A potter around where I live, incorporates local seaweed and other plant material into his work – you can’t get that anywhere else.
Another aspect could be time – your event only takes place once a year, or once ever. Miss it and well, you’ve missed it. The experience of fishing mackerel around where I am from is unique as well. Under certain circumstances, mackerel will come very close to the coast. When they do, you can catch them very easily and it’s a right mayhem of people landing mackerel by the bucket load and it’s quite strange to witness (or take part in). But if the weather is not right, there will be no such event, regardless what we might have had in mind.
But there are other aspects to consider when you wish to make your product unique, such as the social setting it occurs in, whether it can keep providing new experiences for people visiting more than once, and whether to allow co-creation. And much more.
What makes the things you work with unique?