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Trend #54: Exploring Trends in Marketing: Sell Experiences, Not Products

Many companies are struggling to sell material goods to customers—or even to attract their attention. Consumers have too much “stuff” already. The sheer amount of products (and advertisements) are hard to break through. It is difficult to reach customers through traditional media, especially when the product does not offer significant value. Customers can easily and cheaply obtain the material goods they need and want. Unless a company has the lowest price and the quickest delivery, they aren’t likely to be swayed based on the products alone.

So how do brands stand out? By providing a unique experience. Experiential marketing means immersing customers within the product and allowing them to form an emotional connection with the brand. It means selling more than a material item—instead, companies are offering memories.

Over 75% of millennials prefer to spend money on experiences rather than material things. But it’s not just millennials. In the past 10-15 years, consumer spending on cars and household goods has decreased, while spending on travel, recreation, and eating out has increased. Companies such as Airbnb have bloomed because of the desire to travel and experience the world.

Social media is a significant reason why experiences are so powerful. Studies show that consumers are much more likely to support brands that offer value—and they place a high value on unique, social media—worthy experiences. People seek ways to attract attention with aesthetically—pleasing snapshots of their lives. The desire to “keep up with the Joneses” hasn’t gone away. Instead of competing with neighbors’ cars and houses, though, consumers want to show that they are having the best time at the best places.

The companies that have excelled in this area have a unique combination of physical product, experience, and brand power. Consider Starbucks. When customers spend $5 on a cup of coffee, they are getting so much more: the warm, inviting atmosphere of the coffee shop, the iconic cup emblazoned with the logo, and the feeling they get when hundreds of people “like” the photos they post of their decadent drinks.

Steve Weaver, owner of The Candle Lab, who recently spoke to High School of Business educators and MBA Research staff, understands the value of marketing an experience rather than just a product. Steve knew that people wanted candles, but the market was saturated. He decided to do something that he hadn’t seen before—offer candle lovers the experience of making their own candles. Steve has achieved great success by giving people the opportunity to have an enjoyable night out—and take home a candle, too. To learn more about selling experiences and the future of marketing, join us at Conclave 2018 in Kansas City, MO, where Steve will be our closing keynote speaker.

FRANK (which stands for “frankly speaking”) is a new brand and concept of OCBC (Oversea—Chinese Banking Corporation) in Singapore. FRANK is geared toward providing members of Gen Y with positive banking experiences. The FRANK retail store is designed to provide fun and relaxing banking experiences for customers, including the option to design their own debit and credit cards. Customers who bring in three friends to open bank accounts win $50 worth of free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Thanks in part to tactics such as these, OCBC already owns 26% of the total youth market in Singapore.

What can companies do to provide more experienced-based interactions with customers?

  • Figure out what sets them apart
  • Use video to create experiential-value ads
  • Engage brand ambassadors (influencers)
  • Integrate existing products with experiences


Keep in mind that while it may take a number of positive experiences to build brand loyalty, it only takes one bad experience (in many instances) to lose a customer to a different brand.

Classroom Implications

Have students provide examples of experiences that they have bought into—and shared on social media. Ask them to share why they were motivated to spend money on the experience and whether they felt it was worth it.

Ask students to take an existing product and brainstorm ways that it could be combined with an experience to make it more valuable.

Learn more:

https://www.business.com/articles/the—modern—marketers—guide—to—selling—experiences/

http://fortune.com/2016/09/01/selling—experiences/

https://globaledge.msu.edu/blog/post/53437/millennials—and—the—business—of—selling—experiences—

http://blog.higherlogic.com/customers—buy—experiences—not—products

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/290848