Indeed, the widespread news of this Red Bull Stratos project will boost interest in skydiving and then spread to increase sales of other extreme experiences. The effect is like what happened to the interest in Dalmatians after release of each edition of the movie “101 Dalmatians” and the same sort of thing with Chihuahuas with release of “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” movies. Moreover, there was a spread from breed-specific interest to a general attractiveness in adopting or purchasing dogs of other breeds.
There also were, in each instance of the dog movies, warnings from animal welfare groups that many of these animals would end up abandoned.
This warning was addressed mostly to consumers. My warning, arising from reactions to Mr. Baumgartner’s jump, is addressed to retailers: Odds are any explosive growth in sales of extreme experiences will rather promptly shrink back to a niche market.
The evidence for this is in an analysis by London-based Trajectory Partnership of the effects of economic downturns and recoveries on consumer psychology. Trajectory took into account how bad the latest downturn is compared to those previous ones, and they overlaid all this on consumer psychology trends which are operating independently of the downturn.
The Trajectory conclusion: Interest in seeking extreme experiences will be limited. Experiences are in, but for most consumers, risk tolerance is way down for the count. The Trajectory researchers pointed out how many people who lived through the Depression pinched pennies for the rest of their lives.
As a businessperson, don’t overinvest. Dip your toe in when marketing extreme experiences. And in your marketing, use the target motivations identified by consumer psychology research:
- Roller Coaster Effect. Consumers go on the most treacherous roller coasters not only for the stimulating physical sensations, but also for the sense of pride achieved in prevailing over fears.
- Breakthrough Effect. Some people are more interested in breaking taboos than in breaking through fears. Some consumers yearn to push the limits.
- Educational Effect. The organizers of a Brooklyn Kitchen bug-eating event in Manhattan touted the benefits of learning about cultures in which eating bugs is common.
Distinguish Accelerating from Slowing Trends
Impress with the Exotic