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How to Give Experiences Instead of Things

The holiday season has arrived, bringing with it a strong reason for joy, celebration, and gift-giving. While some may curse the cold and snow, we revel in the abundance of the year and what the holiday season means to each of us at Matt Jensen Marketing. For our CEO in particular, Christmas time is about taking gift giving to a whole other level by creating experiences far beyond spending money on an object, and celebrating how these experiences shape how we remember this time of year.

Q: How is giving experiences instead of things more than just a trend?

Matt Jensen (MJ): Inanimate objects tend to lose their luster over time. This time of year, we are always reminded of what it’s like to be a kid wanting a new Atari Video Game System, a shiny new bike, or that illustrious Red Ryder Lever Action BB Gun. If we think back to wanting those gifts as a child, the most prominent memory about the season isn’t the thing itself. It was all of the tension, anxiety, prayer, begging,and reasoning that went into our asking for it. Anticipation in and of itself is an experience.

That’s why, this holiday season, we should imagine how much more meaningful gifts can be. It isn’t just the anticipation of each holiday season but also the emotions. The fear, adrenaline, suspense, surprise, and resolution all coming together to make these different emotions hinge to an experience. Which creates a greater memory: a set of baking sheets, or lessons from a local dessert maker? The beginner guitar, or a one-on-one session with the concert guitar player? Listening to Beethoven’s 5th on a CD, or being able to walk into a theater with a tuxedo and Chuck Taylor converse and raising the baton to lead the symphony as a 16-year-old? These are the things that memories are made of and memories last far longer.

Q: Can you create an experience for everyone in your life?

MJ: The premium we pay for experience is our own time, so you create these peaks for people if you’re willing to invest your time in them. I’m a believer that you can design an experience around anybody if you stop and get to know them well enough.

My wife’s 40th birthday, for example: I took her on a trip to wine country and though we both enjoyed the good food and wine, it was the fact that I had coordinated with all of her friends that flew in and surprised her one night that made the trip so memorable. How much can that bottle of wine really be worth when you’re enjoying the night away with the people that mean the most to you?

Q: Where do you find experiences that you can give as a gift? What counts as an experience?

MJ: The most creative business owners and best entrepreneurs create an experience around their product. Wouldn’t we all rather take a tour of the factory of the chocolates that we just bought and smell the caramel being melted, watch the chocolatiers designing the marshmallow top, and see each one of your treats being packaged with care? That’s a chocolate-making experience, not just a sale.

Q: How do you wrap up an experience?

MJ: To make every experience spectacular, you have to extend it past the natural beginning and end. Imagine this: A concert where they put electronic wristbands under each seat which lights up different colors when the band is playing their set. The next morning, that bracelet calculates which song danced to the hardest the night before measured on the activity from the and starts blasting that song to wake us up in the morning. Now that bracelet carried on that amazing experience from the night before, and also leaves concertgoers telling the story of how they woke up that morning over, and over, and over again. We would leave on a peak, and that’s what is to be remembered years down the road instead of all the traffic to the concert or money spent.

Q: So, how do you go about creating an experience for someone?

MJ: Look into their favorite things, their interests, their bucket list, and peg an experience where those all intersect. Sometimes an experience is easier to generate than originally thought.

So as we dive into the holiday season, let us take the time to create these experiences and marinate in those moments. We at Matt Jensen Marketing know it’ll be worth it.