Owning the Experience

There is growing evidence that consumers are becoming less interested in conspicuous consumption.  From Millennials, who are (sometimes unwillingly) slow to launch their own independent households to Baby Boomers who are downsizing into smaller, more urban locations to the growing impact of Mari Kondo’s KonMari method of decluttering – living with less is an important new cultural trend.

Coupled with this trend away from consumption of “stuff” is the trend toward using our time and money for Experiences.  You can look to social media – when was the last time a friend shared an image of a new purchase, such as a car or house?  Yet our newsfeeds are full of pictures of exotic trips, restaurant visits, concerts and sporting events.

The new campaign from Groupon highlights this insight.  The TV ads compare the “Haves” and their mansions full of gaudy stuffy and the “Have-Dones” who are engaged in life through experiences like sky-diving, dining out, getting spa treatments or visiting a fun-park. In a press release for the campaign launch,  Vinayak Hegde, Groupon’s CMO highlighted that this new focus is based on research findings that experiences been scientifically proven to make consumers happier.


Two immediate takeaways from the new campaign:

  • The “Haves”, with their collections of gaudy stuff are cast as older and unsociable. “Have-Dones” by contrast are youthful and spirited.  Which portrayal is more aspirational is pretty obvious.
  • Experiences are shareable – participants are shown enjoying activities with a good friend, a spouse, children And evidence of the experience is shared with the larger group of friends and family – via selfies and social media.

The TV ads close with “If you’re going to own something, own the experience.”  Some thoughts for marketers

  • Are there ways to enhance the experiential qualities of your product/service?
  • How important is shareabilty for your consumer?

The Hunger Games: Breaking the Bank

Source: Friday’s Culture Casserole from foodforthesoul

I, along with tens of thousands, saw The Hunger Games on opening weekend and, according to Entertainment Weekly’s Inside Movies box office update, the opening day box office for the film was the best for a non-sequel. Hoping to avoid the seemingly inevitable throngs that would be lined up to see this movie that’s all the rave and taking the nation by storm, a friend and I made a plan to see the earliest Saturday morning showing at a nearby ‘hundredplex.’

For the most part, I’m not the kind of girl who likes the idea of queuing up to see anything … at least not since I lined up outside Radio City to attend that Jackson Five concert in the 80’s or that Christmas Day (in the 1990’s) when I stood in the cold to be among the first to see Godfather Part III or … OK, I’m no longer that girl except when I am. Anyway, I digress. My friend and I joined a modest line-up of eager fans and saw the 9 AM showing of The Hunger Games on opening weekend which, I suppose, makes me part of the latest movie phenomenon.

Honestly, I had not heard about The Hunger Games until last year when a guest chef contributed a Culture Casserole to The Daily Special feature. Even then, all I knew was the name and that it was a book. So, my decision to go was based on 1) walking past a Barnes & Noble bookstore and seeing a throng of kids and adults, patiently waiting to purchase the book and get it signed, and 2) the spirit of adventure, curiosity and discovery that I possess.

So, there we were, watching The Hunger Games in IMAX, not knowing exactly what to expect and going along for the ride. While I watched I found myself intrigued by many aspects of the production as well as the plot.

From a production standpoint, the film-making is grand, sweeping, worthy of an IMAX experience. In this day and age when movie goers are balking at high ticket prices ($18 per ticket for IMAX in New York City!) and opting for the small screen to watch movies, (or converting a living room wall into one’s own personal drive-in with the use of a movie projection system and watching movies streamed from NetFlix or DVDs borrowed from the library like a friend did recently), it is no easy feat to get fannies into the seats when there are so many options available to a technologically savvy population. Mission accomplished on the part of the producers of The Hunger Games–it is definitely the kind of movie that truly benefits from the big screen experience–it is a visual smorgasbord of delight. And, at the before-Noon ticket price of $11 (full price for IMAX IS $18!) offered by the AMC Theatres in my city, it was a steal!

In terms of the plot, there were many themes that speak to where we are in life and who we need to be in the face of life’s circumstances.

At the macro level, there is the historically significant theme of children being called upon to bear the brunt of responsibility for past conflicts of adults; this is clearly reminiscent of the way armies press young people into duty (some are driven by patriotism, others looking to escape poverty) to fight the wars the adults have wrought. Then there was the very topical theme of the 1% being supported and entertained by the 99% whose main focus in life is on survival. Further, the disposability of young people by a satisfied, even decadent elite class whose concerns go to simple pleasures like having dessert or making light of matters of life and death might be viewed as indicative of the way many in our society are lacking in compassion for others. Witness the youthful ‘prank’ played by the Rutger’s student on his roommate who felt it was harmless to film his roommate having sex with his partner and acceptable to invite his friends and tweeps at a designated time to the viewing of this personal act between friends. It was only because the young man, whose privacy was violated, committed suicide that this blatant disregard, even trivializing of such an action, was brought to light. The fact that there was such blatant disregard for the privacy of another, might be viewed as indicative of how we as a society have become so insensitive to the needs and boundaries of others.

At the micro level, we see the main protagonist, Katniss, playing the role of hunter-gatherer for her family, expressing strength by volunteering (and in all probability sacrificing her life) to protect her sister and reflecting classic role reversal when she as the child feels the need (based on past experience) to demand that her mother stay responsible and take care of the home and her sister while Katniss participates in the 74th Annual Hunger Games. This theme in particular resonates with me and many of my friends of a certain age who are being called upon to provide support to elderly parents, support that is often financial or physical or emotional, or all three.

With all that said, The Hunger Games is a riveting film and a worthy view. And, at the end of the film, when the stage is set for the sequel, I realize I’m vested in what’s to come and, while I might or might not read the books, I will see the next theatrical installment.

It’s Easy to be Green – Take 2

Building on our post last year about Marcal’s line of earth-friendly paper products, Kimberly Clark has taken green innovation to the next step with its new Tube-free bath tissue.

Launched exclusively in Walmart and Sam’s Club stores, the new tube-free bath tissues offer consumers a visible way to help reduce the 160 million pounds of trash (usually not recycled) generated by discarded toilet paper tubes.

One downside – the new Tube-free offering does not use recycled paper, like the rest of the Scott Naturals line. However, K-C personnel indicate a move to at least 40% recycled-content paper is in the planning stages, especially if the product is launched into other retail outlets.

Have you tried this new tube-less wonder? What do you think – share your thoughts in Comments.

HealthStyles: A New Path to Value

We started our discussion about Value a little while back and our post on The Green Value Opportunity: Local Solutions was a first look at re-defining value in a way that resonates with consumers.

But, there is also a consumer-driven factor that is likely to impact this new value paradigm and we believe this is an attitude of responsibility.

With this mindset of responsibility playing an important role in the “stuff” consumers acquire, it will be important for marketers to imbue their products and services with attributes that reflect new values. This brings us to the notion of Health & Wellness which we view as another Value for marketers to take notice of.

Let’s take a look at some of the factors that are contributing to the emergence of Health & Wellness – which we term the HealthStyles Value.

The Social Environment

Interest in HealthStyles is driven by several major demographic and social changes.

First, Americans in general are living longer – and people want to live those extra years “better.” As Iconoculture reported last year, several reputable studies have found that lifestyles that combine a healthy (low fat, high in fruits/vegetables) diet and moderate exercise may forestall Alzheimer’s and other mental declines. Consumer interest in learning about the importance of exercise in improving the quality of life was evident in the high “share” rate (the third most shared article of the day on nytimes.com) for John Hanc’s recent column, Staying on Balance, With the Help of Exercises. The article points out the importance of balance for our growing older population, and the share rate demonstrates just how much people are clamoring for this kind of information.

Second, despite the current recession, the overall cost of food continues a 20-year decline as percentage of a family’s income and obtaining adequate, nutritious food is now much more accessible to most people. Under the auspices of the Federal WIC Farmers Market Nutrition program, almost every state allows low-income residents to utilize food assistance cards/coupons to purchase locally grown foods at farm stands and farmers’ markets.

And third, with the recent move toward universal healthcare coverage, there is an increasing recognition that developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is more cost-effective over the long term. There are several high profile initiatives centering around the relevance of health consciousness including:

Let’s Move. First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” project to address childhood obesity is an example of utilizing core Health & Wellness in a major policy initiative. The program incorporates nutrition education (with fresh foods in the forefront) and developing a lifelong, physically active lifestyle. By targeting children through engagement in growing and preparing healthy meals and incorporating “movement” into every child’s daily schedule – maintaining a healthy weight and fit body is easier and more natural.

NFL Play 60. Launched in 2007, NFL PLAY 60 is a national youth health and fitness campaign focused on increasing the wellness of young fans by encouraging them to be active for at least 60 minutes a day. Along with national outreach and online programs, NFL PLAY 60 is implemented at the grassroots level through NFL’s in-school, after-school and team-based programs. The program has targeted $200 million to address childhood obesity since its inception.

The Marketing Environment

Several companies are getting out in front of the Health & Wellness trend and are taking a holistic approach to promoting consumer products and services.

Whole Foods’ partnership with “Eat Right America” enables shoppers to create store-wide shopping lists tailored to different eating plans from vegan to allergy-aware to baby/toddler to weight management.

V-8’s “What’s Your Number” TV commercials highlight the fruit/vegetable nutrition count in their products with a focus on the positive effects of these beverages on consumers’ overall health. Weight Watchers just revised their famous points system to give dieters a free pass when consuming fresh fruits or vegetables – by identifying these items as “point-free,” members will be encouraged to increase consumption of more healthful (and lower calorie/fat) foods in their ongoing efforts to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

In April, Rite-Aid, the drugstore retailer launched their new Wellness+ rewards program. The loyalty program allows card holders to redeem points for free glucose and cholesterol screenings at local labs. As consumers search for savvy ways to stay healthy, has Rite-Aid found a unique way to leverage Health & Wellness to create more value in their relationship with their shoppers?

Even fast food companies like Wendy’s are getting in on the act by offering better-for-you french fries made with “Russett potatoes, leaving the skin on and sprinkling sea salt on top.”

While food, fitness and healthcare are a natural fit for the Healthstyles Value, we believe the possibilities go beyond these categories.

The Business Opportunity

Some brands are taking the long view and positioning their brands as offering benefits that contribute to a lifetime of health. Aquafresh toothpaste has gone beyond addressing the obvious attributes of fresh breath and white teeth – their new Aquafresh Iso-Active range is positioned to deliver “Strong, Healthy Teeth for a Lifetime.”

As Americans become more time and cash crunched, personal services such as Spas have suffered as customers cut time-consuming luxuries from their budgets. By repositioning spa services into 30-60 minute “wellness breaks” and focusing of revitalizing treatments versus pampering, day spas may be able to recapture past customers while building a new customer base.

In this rushed world more people are considering time spent away from work, recharging and enjoying recreation with family and friends, to be critical to their overall Health & Wellness. Products and services that enable consumers to utilize their work time most effectively and re-engage with family will be viewed as delivering this new Healthstyle value.

Microsoft’s new Windows 7 phone is leveraging that important value. In its “Really” campaign, users of competitors’ products are shown as disengaged and missing important milestones because using their smartphones is so time-consuming. In addition to clearly setting up the phone dilemna in this Windows 7 launch ad, an additional execution in the campaign directly reflects the HealthStyles value by showing how the Windows 7 phone supports a fulfilling, “healthy” lifestyle experience.

Which other product or service categories do you think could benefit from integrating the HealthStyles Value into their branding efforts?