Prescription: Disneyfy Experiences

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Prescription: Consumers will value experiences matter, not products – so make them spectacular

Status: Occurring


“The next decade will be a transitional one for the United States…people will continue shopping, just not at self- destructive levels, That leaves lots of retail and service businesses competing for a shrinking pie” (p 161).

…The way into their hearts and wallets is to think of every domestic business like a ride in a theme park

People come to New York or Paris because there is a lot to experience in one, manageable place.

…The country is brimming with international celebrities, actors, sports teams, and musicians. Creating one-of-a-kind experience packages for foreign consumers and businesses should not be that difficult. 

If the end of the D subway line in New York City ended with a CGI extravaganza straight out of a Spiderman movie, you can bet tourists would pay $35 each to experience it. They’d spend another $100 for Yankees tickets, beer, and soft pretzels. The same can work in hub-and-spoke trips. People who come to Boston for a business trip might also invite their spouses for a relaxing week on Cape Cod or a one-of-a-kind fishing trip with a Kennedy (any Kennedy will do). The same applies for tours built around sporting events, nose jobs, concerts, American Idol tapings, GE factory tours, warehouse tours, Deepak Chopra seminars, or a Britney Spears lip-syncing extravaganza.

Econovation, 2011 (p105-107)

What Happened

We’re done with stuff.

Aging Parents With Lots of Stuff, and Children Who Don’t Want It, Aug 2017

Shopping shifts to experiences

How the American middle class lost its taste for mindless consumerism, Nov 2015

Sears has suffered historic losses and shuttered its flagship Chicago store. J.C. Penney has closed 33 stores and laid off 2,000 employees in recent years. Red Lobster, spun off from its parent company and sold for a song, is bleeding money, slashing prices, and finding its customer traffic at historic lows. Olive Garden, too, has seen a decrease in customers for nine out of the last 13 years.

Starbucks was ahead of the game in adjusting to the changing tastes of the middle class. After a decline in sales in the mid-aughts, the company brainstormed ways to improve quality, shutting down all stores for three hours back in 2008 so baristas could learn how to make the perfect espresso. The closures cost the company a reported $6 million, but the improved customer experience has led to increased sales–more than enough to make back that one-time loss.

Ford…Rather than beginning its car-making process with engineers, it’s taken on rigorous study of different types of drivers and what each type wants out of their experience behind the wheel.

Shoppers are choosing experiences over stuff, and that’s bad news for retailers

How Legacy Retail Spaces Are Transforming Into ‘Millennial Playgrounds’, Mar 2017

Shopping centre debuts vision for the future of retail

Cities start to Disneyfy

Planet Money: #843: Swamp Gravy – town built its success around a musical

like a lot of small towns in America, Colquitt had been struggling with a shrinking population, and the departure of manufacturing, and the decline of farming, and all the other economic troubles that plague small towns. And then Joy Jinks stumbled across a bizarre way for the town to try and save itself.

Today on the show, the residents of Colquitt, Georgia, stake their future on writing, directing, and starring in a musical.

Broadway cast of ‘The Lion King’ takes over NYC subway, sings ‘Circle of Life’ | theGrio

Experiential pranks go viral, like Zombies in NYC

…But more creatively overseas than in the US


Near the Polish and Slovak borders, the Czech Republic’s third largest city is known for being unattractively industrial – it was historically associated with the production of pig-iron and coal. The Colours of Ostrava music festival takes place at a former mine that has now been repurposed as a museum and events space.

It’s at Lower Vitkovice, the aforementioned mine-turned-museum, that I spend my first full afternoon, having climbed a hill called Ema in the morning. Scaling a slag heap may not sound all that glamorous, but this artificial hill made of mining waste provides outstanding views of the city and surrounding mountains

Locals seem proud of how their city has developed: of the way old miners’ buildings are being reimagined as events and sports centres, of the methane vents scattered around which safely disperse gases and serve as a reminder of the city’s industrial legacy.

Cherry festival attracts tourists, investors to Iranian Kurdish town, Jun 2018

Worldwide holiday company, Kuoni Travel UK, has found evidence of the rise of experiential travel throughout its business, ranging from chocolate-making in St Lucia to sunrise yoga on a sandbank in the Maldives. Street food safaris in Vietnam and classes in cooking like a local in South Africa are examples of how destinations around the world are creating fresh appeal for modern travellers.

“We’re seeing creativity like never before in the tourism industry – everything from star-gazing platforms to dining for two on a private sandbank,” says Derek Jones, Kuoni’s managing director. “Travel has never been more exciting.

What’s Next?

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Provocative predictions & prescriptions on where innovation, economics & culture will take us. Fearless. Funny.