Pirch, Lululemon, Cabela’s, Burberry, Apple: What Do They Have in Common?

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\"Addictive-Brands\"These brands are not retailers.  They are neurologically addictive experiences, co-created by the brand and their dopamine-addicted consumers.  And not so incidentally, the experiences happen to take place in physical buildings. And oh, yes, because the customers are addicts, they buy tons of the brand’s stuff and they can’t get back to those experiences fast enough for their next fix.  By the way, for those of you who don’t know what dopamine is, it’s a chemical in the brain that gets released every time we have an elevated experience. It provides feelings of euphoria, self-satisfaction, wellbeing, and can lead to addiction.

The dopamine-releasing brands headlining this report (and there are others) are such because the experience they have developed requires that the customer participate in creating or shaping the that experience to satisfy their own personal desire at the moment they engage with the brand.

Following are the four indelible points explaining what co-created experiences are, and why they should be on the top of any retailer’s strategic priority list if they plan to stay in business.  Without doing so, there is no real incentive for consumers to go to the physical store other than to pick something up that they ordered online. And, by the way, just as Apple opened physical stores and Amazon will soon, most of the other pure e-commerce players that understand the power of co-created experiences either are, or will be opening stores.

Four Indelible Points

  1. When a customer takes an aromatherapy shower in Pirch’s Sanctuary, or cooks their favorite recipe on a Molteni range; when a Lululemon addict heads there for a yoga class; when a fishing nut gets a fly fishing class in Cabela’s man-made stream; when a young Millennial scans a bar code on a designer outfit she loves in Burberry’s and it triggers a video of the designer storytelling about his design, fabric and overall inspiration for creating the item; or when anybody walks into an Apple experience and is immediately engaged by a T-shirted genius, these are all co-created neurologically addictive experiences.
  2. They are addictive because each time customers co-create the experience with the brand, they are shaping it to their mood of the moment.  When this happens, the experience is new, different and unique.  Therefore, their brains release dopamine each time, giving them such a rush they want to come back to over and over again, or … well, to become addicted.
  3. So, not only does the co-created experience entice them to keep coming back, more often and more quickly for their fix, they stay longer and buy more.  Thus it increases the value of the store and everything in it.  So read: pricing power.  And need I remind you that the negative effects of price promoting and discounting are looming ever larger each day across all sectors, soon to become the primary, if not the number one business challenge.
  4. Finally, such elevated co-created experiences are so powerful they will lure consumers away from their mobile devices or and laptops to rush to the experiential fix regardless of price. So for those who want to continue insanely competing on price (which has only one winner: the consumer), be my guest. But it will end badly for you.

Online co-created experiences such as Gilt’s flash sales, Warby Parker’s amusing online selection of funky eyewear, or even Burberry’s online experience mirroring what is offered in the store, are all connecting with the mind in a positive way.  Who knows, they may even be strong enough to release all that dopamine into the minds of the shoppers.  Just remember as great as the rush may be, neurological connections alone lack the holistic connection and total synergy created when all of the five senses of hearing, smelling, seeing, tasting and touching converge with the sixth sense of the mind.

The pure-play, online-only brands are getting it, including Amazon, so expect an acceleration of more congestion and competition on the ground in brick-and-mortar experiential rushes.

It’s yet another complex and challenging dynamic that can keep you awake at night.

But the addiction can be worth it.



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