It’s now a well-told story. Krispy Kreme doughnuts came out of nowhere, attracted a cult following, spread like wildfire, got over-exposed, then collapsed under its own weight. When I could only get them by making a half-hour pilgrimage across town, I went there all the time. Once they became readily available in my local corner deli, I stopped eating them.
When I was a little kid in central Massachusetts, there was this local, old-style dairy named Pinecroft, that served the best ice cream ever, but only during the summer months. Then the dairy got sold to a bigger company, and the next thing you know they were serving ice cream all year round. It never tasted quite the same after that.
Rosé tastes a lot better in the South of France than it does in London, no matter how much you’re paying.
Lobster is considered a real delicacy, expensive stuff. Back in the 19th Century in New England whaling towns, local boarding houses often had the following sign outside them, in order to attract the sailors’ business: “Lobster only served 4 days a week!”
I only listen to my CD of King’s College Choir during the Christmas holidays. It preserves the magic.
Scrimping and saving over many months for a $4000 English tailored suit is a much more uplifting experience than buying an entire wardrobe of them with a single swish of a diamond-encrusted credit card.
I rarely eat Barbecue, but it’s usually the first thing I head for when I travel to Texas. When I travel to different places, I always like to sample the local fare. I once tried eating Mexican food in Geneva. Never again.
Though they produced all three Lord of The Rings movies at the same time, they made you wait a year between installments. People flocked to see them all.
One of the things I am most looking forward to in 2008 is the final season of Battlestar Galactica. It will be well after summer till I see here in the UK, on DVD [I don’t own a TV]. I’ll probably buy it the same day it becomes available, and I’ll probably watch the entire series in a single, marathon session. I can’t wait!
Back when Kathy Sierra was blogging, she wouldn’t post very often. Every two weeks, perhaps. But BAM! when she wrote, it was stellar stuff. A real treat to read.
I guess you can already see where this is going: People like treats. People are indifferent to commodities, even when the quality of the latter is high. Your downfall begins the minute people no longer have to wait in line in order to get your product, the minute they no longer perceive it as a treat.
[Update:] David St. Lawrence makes a great comment below: “When they are no longer social objects, they are no longer interesting.” Exactly.
Good post! One of those things that ought to be obvious, but someone needs to say it because it’s really not.
Here’s a local example to add to your list: you can only eat local oysters in months that contain an “R” (i.e. the cold months). During the peak oyster months, people have oyster roasts, big parties where they enjoy bushels of oysters. I don’t think we’d have the parties if we could get the good local oysters year-round.
I genuinely laughed out aloud at this cartoon Hugh!
And oh so true.
When you think back to the Stormhoek/Thresher voucher viral last year, how many businesses could say they enjoyed even a fraction of the success Thresher did?
OK, timing is everything and they got the lead on others (and you might rightly argue that the method of delivery made a significant difference to the success of the voucher too), but within a week, “e-vouchers” were everywhere, promising the world – but we had all spent up.
Hm… This makes an interesting amount of sense, and dovetails nicely with an own idea or two on my own blog. It’s got roots, at least.
Ahh, the treat factor. It’s so important really and yet I’d forgotten it. Does anyone remember when Starbucks was special? In light of the recent corporate shakeup I wonder if they do?
I agree, although making something a treat isn’t always time, cost, or scarcity dependent issue.
Sometimes it’s about discounts, or the buzz, and almost all the time it’s about making something great quality.
Brilliant!! AGAIN!! What are you smoking these days!? I don’t know if it’s you or me but I read your posts and am awed, this year especially.
The LOTR example is flawed: Although all three were *shot* at the same time, post-production did in fact take a year between movies. One side-effect of this is that they had more CPU-cycles to throw at the digital effects in each subsequent movie, and it shows.
We used to have a Deli in our lunch zone in downtown. It was an easy walk and the food was heavenly. Development came in and demolished the building they had been in for decades. $1,000,000 condos went up for 25 floors. So many folks commented on how they missed the place and so on. One day I overheard they had a new location. It was a tough walk, and they were on an upper level of an older building instead of ground level, and that required a long wait for an elevator ride. No sign outside and no sidewalk seats like before. And a smaller space.
It was packed to the walls when I went there for the first time. At the cash register I asked the owner why he picked such an out of the way, obscure, and old location.
“We are a destination. Not an impulse.” he said.
I have never forgotten that expression.
And what a treat that lunch was …
Damn, I miss Kathy’s blog!!!
here’s another Dammit-agree with all the above. dammit this was a most brilliant post of some damn good ones. Keep ’em coming(from time to time of course) don’t wanna turn em into Krispy Kremes…
Michael R, and you’re argument is flawed because it makes the assumption that that the studio had no choice but to release the three installments when they did, like it was written in stone or something.
Thanks for the kind words, Everybody 🙂
To build on your own excellent work, when they are no longer social objects, they are no longer interesting.
I recall when Coors beer was made in only one plant – It was Paul Newman’s brew. Now it is commonplace and a commodity.
Is growth the problem? Is Starbucks too common now? Is there a sweet spot that we should preserve and grow through margin or maybe not at all?
As organizations grow do they leak culture and just become the Matrix?
Just been talking to a friend about her challenges with growth in her organization so all of this is quite real for me right now
Your post has stirred me up Hugh
Great post Hugh.
Now move from KK to Starbucks. They were originally a treat. In the name of efficiency, they don’t even grind the coffee locally anymore. Though I still see people waiting, waiting, for that $4.00USD privilege of a cup of coffee.
A commodity treat?
I wonder if this applies to availability online as well – as in people can read your thoughts on microblogs (twitter), blog posts, facebook (and other) network activities, etc. Does this make one become overexposed thus lowering the “I gotta [read, buy, get] more of..” factor?
Scarcity certainly drives up prices, as we all learned in Econ 101. But quality can become a concern when a company tries to expand to meet burgeoning demand. I have seen several cases where a local restaurant does well in a single location but fails after they try to expand to multiple locations. Quality suffers because the expansion is beyond the capabilities of management and ends up bringing the whole works down.
I think you’re also seeing the “fad” nature of some social objects. Would Cabbage Patch dolls have remained popular if supply had been kept constrained, or would the manufacturer simply have failed to take advantage of the market while it was hot?
As to Krispy Kreme, low carb dieting drove a major stake through the heart of those doughnuts.
I have more I would like to say on this, but I have to run off to Star Bucks before the line gets too long. The wait can be murder this time of day.
does this run counter to the prevailing web 2.0 meme about making content being ubiquitous? Where it’s available everywhere, on demand whenever the newly liberated “consumer/audience …” wants it?
Is WSJ creating a treat by keeping the pay wall?
Is Sony creating treats by selling music on little cards you have to take home and enter a code into a website to get the music?
Why isn’t DRM the same thing as having to trek across town for a Krispy Kreme?
Jeff, if it doesn’t feel like a treat to you, then sadly, it’s not a treat. As a musician, you should know what I’m talking about. We’re talking about the emotional realm here, not the rational.
Remember, when you get in the car to drive your nephew across town to his favorite ice-cream place or toy store, the drive across town is also part of the ritual. “Treating oneself” is a form of ritual.
Whipping out your credit card to get behind a firewall to access content that’s not any better than a lot of free content out there, would be a hard process for people to internally ritualize, I would wager.
One could also argue that if suddenly, me or Kathy Sierra put our stuff behind a paid-subscription firewall, reading our stuff would no longer feel like a treat for most people, but a paid-for content service i.e. a commodity.
thanks hugh – makes total sense!
One additional thought on this idea which is essentially about limiting supply to drive up demand. Scarcity = treat. What about ‘ideas’ in themselves. Should you Hugh limit your ideas to make them more of a treat?