Do You Sell a Product or Create an Experience?

This morning was a crisp fall day in Indianapolis. I grabbed my favorite jacket off the banister and headed out the door. As usual, putting on that jacket takes me back to when and where I bought it. Why? Because buying the coat wasn’t just a transaction, it was an experience.

My wife and I were on our 25th wedding anniversary trip in Florence, Italy. We were eating brunch at an outdoor café. A gentleman sitting at the next table engaged us in conversation. Raphael is originally from Florence, and his family has been in the leather tanning business for many years. He is a designer and his boutique is just around the corner. He goes on and on telling us about his family’s history, how he used to play in the piazza when he was a small boy. Raphael would be honored if we would come with him to see his shop. Raphael is a gregarious, funny guy, and it is difficult to resist his charm.

We get the feeling that we’re not the first American couple Raphael has befriended at that ristorante. But, hey, we’re in Florence, and when in Florence…

We finish brunch and walk around the corner to his boutique. He holds out two bottles of wine, one white, one red. We’ll have a bit of red wine, please. He and his staff whisk past us a number of leather jackets. In a flurry, we’re trying on several alternatives. Okay, maybe we SHOULD each get a jacket! It is our anniversary, after all. And the jacket IS reversible – leather on one side, suede on the other. And the prices seem reasonable. Raphael and his assistant continue schmoozing us. We have a bit more wine. Repeat process. Pull out wallet.

Raphael knows what he’s doing. He isn’t just selling leather coats; he’s creating an event, an experience. We not only walk out with two jackets, which we still wear three years later, we walk out with a fond memory. And pictures. Raphael insists we pose for photographs in front of his store. Oh yeah, he also gave us a bottle of wine for our anniversary. Thanks, Raphael.

So, as marketers, we must all ask ourselves, are we selling a product or, like Raphael, are we creating an experience?