Experiences: The New Status Symbol
By Tom Ryan
In the past, status for many has been measured by what you own. But with the
Great Recession and the environmental crisis, status is increasingly being
measured by what you do.
That’s the opinion of Al Mackey, an analyst at Yellowwood Future Architects,
a marketing and brand strategy firm based in South Africa. Even before the
crash, Mr. Mackey argued in a column he wrote for London’s Times that the
luxury crowd was seeking new ways to gain recognition that were "more
subtle than bling, more exclusive than expensive."
But while some of the push toward resourcefulness and less consumption is
driven by eco-concerns, much of it is still driven by ego-fulfillment.
"As the war to save the planet gets under way, the moral high ground becomes
the ultimate status symbol of those who think of themselves as educated, intelligent
and cutting edge," wrote Mr. Mackey. "Consuming less, or wiser, is
the badge of recognition to chase, and brands that allow consumers to tread
lightly in subtly recognizable ways will attract the attention of a new generation
of status seekers."
Moreover, the bragging rights have shifted from "having to doing." Adventures
and discovery — whether hiking a legendary trail, a star encounter at
a concert, or even attending an art class — have become the status symbols.
And the arrival of social media is feeding the value of experiences.
"Status is to be achieved through context; the party you are at, the person
you are talking to at your meeting. Your tweets and Facebook updates and mobile
up-loads all scream one thing: look at what I’m doing," wrote Mr. Mackey.
His advice to brands, especially those that rely on exclusivity: Wrap yourself
"Picking up skills and harnessing natural talents are ways to get peers’
attention, and so businesses that enable their consumers or clients to do this
are sure to flourish for the next few years," wrote Mr. Mackey. "Think
about what activities or experiences will make for memorable or impressive
stories around your product. Could building in a DIY component achieve this?
Or is there a unique event that would make your users proud?"
He concluded, "Status means being able to do something; learn something
or make a difference, and that activity needs to be unique, relevant and add
value to the consumer’s life. If you get it right, the twitter-sphere will
be awash with gloating that has your name on it."
Discussion Questions: Do you agree that there’s a new status afforded to
doing good or or other types of experiences? How can brands or retailers, especially
luxury ones, best capitalize on any such change in the consumer’s viewpoint?