Saturday, February 06, 2010

An Ode Before Dying

You think you sell a movie—you do not.
You think you sell a book—you do not.
You think you sell a song—you do not.

You sell an experience, something communicated, something elusive and ephemeral. Something mystical and transformative and inspiring. All these abstract things simply come in the shape of a movie, a book, or a song.

Never before has it been possible to strip away these experiences from the product... until now, the Digital Age.

The Digital Age lets us duplicate products infinitely. And, for the first time in human history, creators are not deprived of their original copy.

So how do creators sustain? What do they sell?

It's simple, if creators are willing to accept one simple fact:

Creators don't sell products, they sell experiences.

In fact, creators never sold products, although it must have always seemed that way. They just never saw it before because products and experiences have been so deeply entwined.

The Digital Age has changed all that... we can read a novel without buying a book. we can watch a movie without buying a movie ticket. we can listen to a song without buying a record.

So how do creators sustain? What do they sell?

They sell the experience.
They sell access to themselves.
They sell uniqueness.
They sell convenience.
They sell membership.
They sell customization.
They sell exclusivity.
They sell benefits.
They sell patronage.
They sell magic.
They sell the experience.

They sell that which cannot be felt, something that transports their customers to another place for a brief time. When customers buy a $500 shirt, they aren't being sold a simple shirt, they are being sold self-confidence.

Creators will sell the same thing they've always sold—intangibles—though some will stubbornly claim they (should) only sell the product. Those kinds of creators have never seen the distinction between experience and product because, before the Digital Age, intangibles have been inseparable from books, movie tickets and records.

The key to the Digital Age is to recognize that many existing products already embed intangibles, which is why those products are still being bought. However, once those intangibles stop being offered, or a competitor offers better intangibles, the customer will go elsewhere.

Creators can sustain. They will sustain. The market wants to sustain creators. Yet only the ones who realize that they don't sell products, but experiences. Only those creators are the ones worthy of survival in the Digital Age.

The rest will whine and commiserate as they slowly fade into obscurity.

And to them, we offer a fond, and sad, adieu.


Miles Maker said...

Thanks for this--it helped me clarify a few things about myself as a brand and my unique offering. I've had this concept on my mind for some time--but you brought it to the forefront of my consciousness.

GREAT stuff!
Inspirational and thought-provoking.
Intimidating to some, but I'm not one of 'em!

(Miles Maker is a story Author, content Producer and Auteur whose dynamic media ventures encompass three current web/tech sector megatrends: mobile, social, and real-time @milesmaker on Twitter)

buk anir said...

sounds like someone's guilty of having a really full hard drive.

Jeff Jarvis said...

Wonderful post.
See other discussion about scarcity from Mike Masnick -- -- and me --

Rob:-] said...

This is why live performances are so powerful ... they are intangible!

Last year we saw a very compelling and moving one-man show. So, of course, we bought the DVD. And even though many "special" effects were added, it isn't nearly as compelling as that live performance.