Black Friday this year found me exploring a wilderness-area canyon in central Arizona, in search of Sinagua cliff dwelling ruins. I didn’t miss shopping that weekend—and I had the time of my life.
You’ve probably heard that buying and consuming life experiences, contrasted with material items, leads to greater well-being. Many studies demonstrate that people are generally happier as a result of purchasing an experience than they are as a result of purchasing an object.
Everyone wants happy customers, because happy customers are the ones who recommend your products to their friends.
But what if you’re selling material items?
A research paper published a couple of years ago in the Journal of Consumer Psychology revealed something interesting: three separate studies showed that consuming experiential products provided “similar levels of well-being compared to life experiences and more well-being than material items.” For example, participants rated the purchase of a guitar as bringing greater happiness than the purchase of jewelry.
But what if you’re not selling musical instruments, outdoor gear, or other clearly-experiential products?
Give your products an experiential twist. Even if you don’t think your product is directly connected to an experience, you can create a connection. Consider Kindle’s long-running “Will Travel” ad campaign. It’s long-running because it’s working. And one of the reasons it’s working is because it directly ties Kindle to amazing experiences.
Here are three ways to make your product experiential.
1. Show it being used on an adventure.
This is the tactic Amazon is using with the Kindle campaign. Just like you would take a backpack along to better enjoy a hike, you can take your Kindle along to better enjoy your rest break at the top of the mountain. To take advantage of this tactic, brainstorm places your product could be used, and then narrow down your ideas to a few that would resonate with your target audience.
2. Show how it connects people socially.
Apple is a great example of a company that’s taken a physical object not typically associated with life experiences and made it into an object that provides life-changing experiences. When you have an iPhone, you can connect with anyone, anywhere, any way you like. You have access, in your hand, to people doing amazing things—people that you can meet and collaborate with. It’s the conduit of everything from enjoying a face-to-face conversation with your grandma to getting involved with a social change project with people you discovered via an app.
3. Show how it increases confidence in performance.
One of the studies referenced in the “To Have in Order to Do” journal article discovered that experiential products notably increased feelings of competence. People like to feel that they’re good at something, and experiential products generally help them be better at the activity they’re pursuing. Consider how your product facilitates competence in different activities that your target audience participates in. You can use one of these ideas as a focal point in a campaign.
The studies reveal that it isn’t so much the nature of the purchase that produces a particular level of happiness—it’s more about how the purchase is being used. Purchases that connect us to the things that make us fulfilled (positive social interaction/belonging, adventure as connected to self-actualization, strong self-esteem) are the ones that make us the happiest. Your job as a marketer is to help your customers connect your products to their best uses—and your own happiness will increase as well.