Per Experience Economy terminology, a real, grown-in-the-ground Christmas tree isn’t just real, it’s “real real.” The tree is both a real organic tree and also a Christmas tree because it was grown specifically to be one. A “real real” Christmas tree is also a commodity because it sells on price, a price that lowers as you get closer to Christmas morning. I have bought many in the parking lot of IKEA over the years for $20, and I’m pretty sure you can have one for free on December 26th.
Real Christmas trees are commodities that compete on price. The cost is what matters most to the customer. There isn’t necessarily much meaning to go along with the purchase of it.
An artificial tree made in a factory is fake, but again per Experience Economy terminology, it’s technically “fake real.” While the tree itself is made out of plastic and metal and it is certainly fake (or artificial if you prefer), it is also real because the tree is in fact what it says it is – a tree for decorating at Christmas.
Artificial trees are goods (not commodities) that compete on price. They are much more expensive early in the holiday than they are on December 26th when you can buy them on sale from stores, often decorated.
Artificial trees are commoditized goods that compete on price. The cost has the most meaning to the customer buying it.
When you hire someone to come and decorate the trees in your yard or deliver and decorate a tree in your home, then you are paying for a service.
When you pay for the service, the cost of the tree(s) (real real or fake real) are subsumed into the service, and the service has meaning for the customer because the tree decorating service is customizing and personalizing the trees to the customer’s wishes. The decorating is done specifically for that customer, and nobody else.
However, when you go to a Christmas tree farm, as I did the other day with my family, then you are paying for an experience.
Experiences are incredibly personal and meaningful.
The time spent (or shared) with your family travelling out there, being there and coming home when you share your stories and memories, are important and significant. You are paying for the “remember when” conversation you are going to have next spring when your little girls (in my case) wax poetic about the tree farm. You are paying for everything but the tree.
In the Experience Economy, the tree is memorabilia, like a T-shirt that you buy in the gift shop of an airport, or a sticker you get from a ski hill to affix to your Thule rack. The trip you went on to Italy or Banff was an experience; whatever you bought to bring home with you is a souvenir (from the Latin “occur to the mind”).
When you embrace the Experience Economy, the products become the memorabilia, and the customer becomes the product. The purpose of every experience is the same: to change the customer, to engage them and delight them in such a way that they wish for the experience to continue.
Now you might think, “Nope, you bought the tree, and everything else was thrown in” but you’re wrong.
I didn’t buy a tree. I bought time.
I bought the gorgeous little building with the sandwiches and hot chocolate.
I bought ambiance. I bought the sounds of the songs. I bought the smell of cider and sugar and cinnamon. I bought the big maze and fort made out of hay bales that my kids played on and the zip line.
I bought the sleigh ride, and I bought the memories.
You probably don’t sell Christmas trees, but you sell something that your customers can either hold in their hand (stuff) or a service you perform on their behalf.
The question is, what principles can you extract from the Christmas Tree farm and apply to your own business?
How can you make it an experience? How can you move the transaction away from goods and services towards meaning? How can you use the goods and services you sell as props to help you stage an experience that engages your clients and changes them?
Stop selling investments and advice. You can get that anywhere.
You know what’s really hard to find? Meaning.