The Souvenir Effect


When was the last time you bought a souvenir (T-Shirt, tchotchke or the like) from an event you attended or an activity you participated in? You most likely overpaid for it so… why did you buy it?

There are a multitude of factors that influence buying behaviour but the one that I believe can be a strategic difference in today’s market is the Experience. People want to connect with others who are like-minded, who share similar values and beliefs. The products and services we use, which are represented by brands, do more than simply meet our needs and wants; they enable us to communicate our values to others in hopes of finding identity and connection. The meaning associated with these “transactions” often comes with a premium price tag, a cost which we’re happy to pay.

Sell the experience and people will buy the souvenir.

When I was 12 years old my cool, older sister gave me a Rolling Stones concert tour t-shirt. I loved that shirt! I loved it not because it was a great poly/cotton blend that fit perfectly (which it didn’t), I loved how it made me feel. I felt cool. At school my teachers commented on it and my friends thought my choice of music was beyond their taste of Vanilla Ice and Kris Kross. Had social media been in the mix back then you can bet your life that I would have taken a great selfie with it. All of this ‘experience’ and I didn’t even go to the concert!

Starbucks was one of the first retailers to build their brand on the Experience. The cafe’s had living room-like furniture, trendy music, and expensive coffee drinks. The drinks themselves were the souvenirs. The cup we proudly carried into the office or hockey arena gave onlookers a glimpse of who we were, what we valued, where we’ve been.

Here are three (3) ways businesses can take advantage of this strategy:

1. Build your brand on the emotional connection you want your target audience to experience. Our agency uses a Brand Pyramid to create brands. At the top of the pyramid is a section called Emotional Connection, it’s where we address questions like: How can customers engage with your product or service that will make them say WOW? What’s the experience like? What’s cool about it? Why would they talk about it at a dinner party? Thinking through these details is the starting point of crafting a compelling offer.

2. Focus on the packaging. This is the first impression and the standard you are creating for your brand. Don’t cheap out on it. I recently bought a Beats by Dre Pill Box Speaker and I love the packaging. The texture of the materials, the speaker case, thickness and colour of the cords, and the organization of the box and contents… the packaging told me they cared and that I was unwrapping a gift from a manufacturer who truly appreciated music and the craft.

3. Don’t be afraid of being different. Every client we work with starts out by saying that they would like to be different. However, when it actually comes down to making decisions they end up making decisions that are very similar to other brands and products in their market. Being different is a big risk and usually involves more money. Most people don’t have the vision to take a risk on an unproven concept that is more expensive. However, results depend on being different.

People don’t talk about experiences that are typical, nor do they share online on behalf of brands that are everyday occurrences.

One of my favourite authors, Seth Godin, once said that he thinks of his books as souvenirs. How different would it be if we all asked ourselves what it would take for people to view our products and services as souvenirs? Would the experiences we provide everyday warrant that type of loyalty?

Have a great day!

– Braden