Authors Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore nailed it over ten years ago when they published The Experience Economy: Work is Theater & Every Business a Stage. These talented visionaries crystallized a fundamental shift in modern marketing.
Products, especially manufactured goods, have become commoditized by virtue of a plethora of choices available in every consumer category. Walk into a Target store and approach the toothbrush displays to behold hundreds of choices. Saunter over to electronics and find dozens of options for audio headphones.
To help differentiate so many product choices, companies then added services to their offerings. I recently worked out to a sample routine featured on Exercise TV. Before beginning the session, a voice-over announcer offered meal plans and fitness calendars as a bonus if I chose to purchase the complete DVD program series. Thus, a commoditized workout routine expanded value by including knowledge services.
But value-added services have become plentiful, also lacking novelty. We simply expect extras for many of the things we buy today. Whether this involves being picked up at home by a car rental company or receiving lavish attention from knowledgeable clerks at an Apple Computer retail store, we expect service.
That brings us to the experience economy. Pine and Gilmore insist: “Those businesses that relegate themselves to the diminishing world of goods and services will be rendered irrelevant. To avoid this fate, you must learn to stage a rich, compelling experience.”
Pine and Gilmore further offer Las Vegas as a straightforward example of the experience economy in action. “Virtually everything about Las Vegas is a designed experience, from the slot machines at the airport to the gambling casinos that line the Strip, from the themed hotels and restaurants to the singing, circus, and magic shows; and from the Forum Shops mall that recreates ancient Rome to the amusement parks, thrill rides, video arcades, and carnival-style games that attract the twentysomethings and give older parents a reason to bring their kids in tow.”
One additional factor in favor of experience-based marketing involves Boomer consumers at this life stage: they are aging. Most Boomers already own too many possessions accumulated over a lifetime. They own furniture. And audio systems. And televisions. Further, they are not as motivated by basic product appeals or even products enriched with services. They’re looking for something else, something more ephemeral: rich experiences leading to peak experiences, creating enduring memories.
This brings me to a recent New York Times article about the ultimate Boomer experience: Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp.
In Chapter 2 of my most recent book, Generation Reinvention, I propose a compelling argument concerning the centrality of rock music in the lives of Boomers:
British songwriter and performer David Bowie built his renowned career around rock ‘n’ roll. So did Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, and Phil Collins. It is a thread connecting disparate members of a generation; it ties New Yorkers to Californians and the Dutch to Brits. It is memories and money, idealism and capitalism.
Today rock ‘n’ roll is ushering Baby Boomers into their third age: For many, the beginning of an adventurous new life stage; for others, a long, slow slide downhill. Whatever your view, Boomers mean money—lots of it.
The lede for the Times article makes a similar point:
Long before they became doctors and lawyers or C.E.O.’s and real estate developers, they played in garage bands and maybe even dreamed of becoming rock stars.
Created by David Fishof, a former sports agent who morphed into a rock talent agent, handling luminaries such as former Beatle Ringo Starr, Rock Camp gives participants a week-long journey into music nirvana.
Wannabe rock legends practice side-by-side with an ever-changing cast of celebrities acting as coaches such as Slash of Guns N’ Roses, Jack Bruce of Cream, Roger Daltry of The Who, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, and even Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones.
After six days of long rehearsals and collaboration with fellow campers, their journey culminates with a concert for friends and family members.
A rancher and amateur drummer from Durango, Colorado, proclaimed, “I’m at a point in my life where I’m going to spend my money on things I’m passionate about, and I’m absolutely crazy about music.” The “things” he is most eager to buy now are transformative experiences. And six days of rock idolatry is a well-considered experience at $10,000.
According to Pine and Gilmore, transformation experiences have four key ingredients:
- Entertainment: To a rock idol wannabe, not much is more entertaining than jamming with peers under the tutelage of classic rock legends.
- Esthetic: Rock Camp gives participants complete immersion into the lifestyle of rock stars, from grueling hours of practice and rehearsal to recording sessions in legendary studios, to a final coming-out concert.
- Escape: Could any experience offer more escape-from-humdrum potential than hanging out and playing music with Roger Daltry or Steven Tyler?
- Education: Six days provide only a brief journey into the rock lifestyle, but these students are ready and the teachers who come are the best in the business, so undoubtedly, everyone receives a boost in their skills.
The most powerful marketing campaigns of the future will have core attributes similar to Rock Camp: immersive, cathartic, transformative and potentially life changing.
Rock on, Boomers!