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Live from FEI 2015: Dustin Garis on LifeProfit

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Why do people buy things?

Most answers to this question tend to be utilitarian. Why buy food? To eat it! Why do people buy shovels? To dig and to clean. Why buy a TV? To be entertained during the spare time that first-world modernization bought us.

If we dig into this a bit more, we come to an understanding that we eat in order to live, we dig and clean so as to keep that life's context in order, and entertainment makes that ordered life more enjoyable. To that end, most brands and marketing target this utilitarian perspective, and tell us all about the things we can do with the products and services that we buy.

And, in a world of scarcity, where products come at a premium, entertainment is hard to find, and food is earned by the desperate sweat of the brow, life definitely seems to be about things. Having things, wanting things, consuming things. People are consumers. As technology and convenience increase over time, products become common, leisure becomes common, and consumerism becomes very common.

Too common, in fact.

What Dustin Garis points out is that the 21st Century has moved from an economy of things to an economy of experiences. We no longer purchase food just to eat it. We have more than enough choices about which food to consume, which makes merely having and eating food a quotidian experience. In order to make food special again, it must be elevated somehow.

Food must become an experience.

That is, one no longer merely eats a steak for dinner. It is eating the steak, in the presence of chosen company, in a tastefully appointed context, that is consequently shared with people. Generalizing from this example, companies must understand that the first world has moved from a consumer economy to a sharing economy (all pun intended!). When we use products and services, we do so for the experience that they provide us and our ability to share those experiences with others.

Consequently, says Garis, branding in the 21st Century must be about how people experience the product. More specifically, the brand should be about lifeprofit: elevating the mundane to increase the richness and meaning of people's lives ("turning ordinary into memorable") -- for companies, this means enabling lifeprofit through the products/services they purvey.

As examples, Garis showed a number of commercials and ad campaigns that inspire people to bond with a brand and recognize the role it can play in a positive and meaningful experience. To create and offer such perspectives, however, is a challenge for companies that are still using the consumerist business model. To get over that barrier, however, Garis suggested that companies find ways to give their employees the same thing that they offer their clients: experiences.

To be innovative, you must live innovation.

About the author
Orin C. Davis is a self-actualization engineer who enables people to do and be their best. His consulting focuses on making workplaces great places to work, and his research is on flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. In addition to being the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory, the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark, a science advisor at Happify, and an advisor at FutureIdeas. Dr. Davis is an adjunct professor of Psychology and Management at Baruch College and a lecturer in Critical and Creative Thinking at UMass Boston. He writes and speaks avidly about human capital, creativity and innovation, and positive psychology. (@DrOrinDavis)

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