Experience Economy

So, it’s been over a decade since I have been going to bars around three nights/week (barring two years in the dry state). It has continued across cities; be it Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore, or even outside India. People on reaching a new location, google great places to visit, be it monuments, natural wonders, local markets, cuisine et al. I google ‘cool bars around me’. Imagine my plight when I got to know that I made it through IIM Ahmedabad and would be stuck in a state with no bars for two years.

One might worry that I am a compulsive alcoholic. Now comes the fun part; I don’t even drink. In fact, till a few years back, I hadn’t even sipped alcohol and even post that it hasn’t been my drink of choice. It ranks number 3; post chocolate shake and diet coke. Since having chocolate shakes in bars might not seem the most macho and also the gazillion calories, I stick with Diet Coke and pour it into a glass meant for scotch (on the rocks). The choice of not starting to drink or smoke was made by me at the age of 17, post watching a Bollywood flick, ‘DevD’. I could so see myself as that hopeless romantic protagonist who loses his entire life drowning sorrows of losing a girl with an endless stream of liquor.

Given my high affinity toward dopamine, I think it is one of the best decisions I made in my entire life as almost every alcoholic in the world discovers liquor in their teenage years. It then becomes hardwired to get an instant hit of dopamine; whether they are sad or happy, stressed or elated, liquor is the answer to almost everything. I get Experiencing Pleasure from ‘self-love’ and chocolate-based dishes (brownies, cakes, shakes, donuts, etc.). To cut down on the calories via chocolates I try to replace them with diet sodas which is why for over a decade, I have been drinking liters of Diet Coke daily.

I get my addictive dopamine from spontaneous encounters or craving pleasure. As highlighted in the Pareto principle, the highest craving NPV in the shortest lead time happens in offline interactions, mostly at bars due to the entire vibe and also inebriated state of the TG where liquor acts as a great lubricant in smoothening interactions and making me sound interesting.

Recently, on one such night, I was at a bar. I reached at around 11 and was on a call. Once I was done with the call, I saw two girls sitting at a table by the terrace wall. I was standing by the bar and the table was around four tables away from me. One of them had her back towards me and I couldn’t see her. The reason I noticed the other one even from such a distance was firstly obviously her flawless looks and gorgeous smile. Secondly and more importantly, she was wearing a really cute hairband. This is an underrated accessory that I haven’t seen a lot of girls wear, especially in Delhi.

As I have stated in one of my standups and the dating matrix, “subtle compliments are a good way to test the waters, and also women like sharp observation skills and precise compliments instead of generic compliments like “You’re so beautiful”. Avoid such blanket statements when complimenting women, because they will see right through it and odds are, you’ll come away looking insincere. Another thing to avoid is the infamous “Can I buy you a drink?” line. You’re not being chivalrous by offering her a drink, you’re opening yourself up to be that guy, the one depleting his bank account in the effort to buy attention. In fact, they may actually get turned off from you because you look desperate. If you compliment her, be quiet – let her respond. If you ask her a question, be quiet – let her answer. Start off the conversation lightly, casually, and relevant to the situation you’re both in. If she responds, great – move ahead with the conversation, and if she balks or ignores you, move on.”

And I just got the perfect opening line: a subtle compliment yet a sharp observation. I went up to her with this compliment with all permutations of her responses running in my head as in Delhi (Capital of validation ‘enthusiasts’), the worst she’ll say is not just NO. From a dry thanks to calling the bar manager and filing a lawsuit for harassment (the mind always wanders to the worst-case scenario), everything was on the table. But, something completely off the script happened here.

As soon as I reach her table, look into her beautiful eyes and compliment her headband, I hear an excited voice from my back rhetorically asking, “That’s a pickup line, right?” As I turn around who is this veteran in the arena; I notice an impeccable beauty with perfectly crafted sharp facial features, unblemished skin, and the really cute aforementioned excited voice. Her face definitely had a resemblance to Nora Fatehi’s face and the whole appeal was quite irresistible.

Now I had to play the dumb blonde who didn’t anything about picking up even clothes, let alone such glamorous girls (GG). So I used the same line I used in my standup about a bar interaction in 2012, that I am a rudimentary engineer et al. One of them is a yoga teacher (hairband one), and the other one is a brand consultant. But the conversation wasn’t quite picking up. Then something changed the rest of the night for the best.

I told them that I talk and write about modern-day dating and draw insights into its various nuisances. I was promptly invited to join them and sit at their table. The rest of the night just flew away in fun-filled conversations, laughter, and lots of insights (how to differentiate infatuation from love, chemicals in romantic interaction, etc.). I didn’t even realize that it was the bar closing time and everyone around us had already left.

Anyway, coming to the MBA concept of ‘Experience Economy‘. Post the agrarian economy, industrial economy, and service economy, the next economy that follows is the experience economy. It is based on the belief that a brand intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable experience. More advanced experience businesses can begin charging for the value of the “transformation” that experience offers, e.g., as education offerings might do if they were able to participate in the value that is created by the educated individual.

A day-to-day example that all of us would have experienced is at the movies. I always use to wonder as to why they charge us more than twice for a can of soft drink at a cineplex. Turns out, they are charging for the experience of enjoying the soft drink while watching your favorite flick in the acoustically perfect surround sound auditorium.

Customers can participate actively or passively in an experience. At the movies, for example, one participates with their presence and it falls under the passive form of experience. During active participation, a consumer plays a key role in creating the event or interaction that generates the experience.  I remember, at IIM Ahmedabad we had marks allocated for class participation, the point was to make the education experience more active and enriching.

The charge levied for experience economy is one of the reasons I don’t like going out for dates as explained in the post about the importance of a landing page. On average, the bars/ cafes/ restaurants charge three to four times the MRP of even packed items. All this is justified in the name of the experience economy. What logic does it make to pay exorbitantly if the experience is having each other’s company? Why are we paying an outsider for that? And if the company sucks, it will suck irrespective of the place.

The concept of experience economy can be replicated in the context of modern-day dating to draw a number of concrete insights. A question that often pops up is ‘what kind of guys/girls do you fall for?’ And most of the time, you are left wondering how it isn’t about the hot looks or the money or even the brains, it’s about the experience you have in their presence.

So if you are on a date with someone who you want to impress, you need to make the experience as fun and active as possible. You want to build an affinity towards you, give them what they want. What they want, it turns out, is an experience—something memorable, something with which they can connect. Yes, you might have the best of degrees and flawless looks, but what do you have to offer your date? Can you fulfill a need they didn’t ask you to, or maybe even one they didn’t know they had, somewhere within their interaction with you? Can you cater to their subconscious’s unfulfilled needs/ desires?

That brings me back to GG. So is this it? Does the meaningless bar spree finally come to an end? Do I finally have my Nora?

Well, the reason the conversation wasn’t taking off was that they both got recently committed. In fact, one of them even called her guy a Christmas miracle. It reminded me of the MVP muse’s drawing. The conversations were mostly me handing out insights on dating alongside some compliments as according to my pre-requisites, they perfectly fit my TG and their LTV is quite high. But it was about their experience, for them it was a fun/ funny interaction and they had nothing to lose. The shelf life of such encounters is mostly one night. I didn’t hear from them post that night, so I am back to my place of closure. The only love that has stayed with me across the years: Heartfelt Writing.



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