A meteor falls to earth and obliterates a major city. Tons of dust and debris are blown into the atmosphere, creating a nuclear winter. Electrical grids go down, basic services are suspended, and what remains of humanity is quickly thrust into a kind of existence not seen in 3,000 years. What will your credit cards be worth? What can you trade for the cash in your wallet?
The plastic card in your wallet is linked to a numerical entry in a database housed on a server somewhere in cyberspace. That number gives you a certain amount of purchasing power. Today these things have value because the fundamental agreement we call money is in place. Tomorrow? Anything can happen. If the power goes out, the agreement you have with every store owner and credit card company may change fundamentally, and that plastic card may suddenly be worthless.
Those things that you value today may not be worth much tomorrow. The popularity of brands comes and goes. Trends emerge and fade. Some of the newest technologies may be completely obsolete in just a few years.
One person will hold different values for one thing at different times. Value changes from moment to moment.
Vegas casinos figured this out a long time ago and began opening malls filled with high-end stores. When someone wins big, his internal calculus for value — the way he perceives the worth of a dollar — changes for a short period of time. A lucky gambler walking away from a roulette wheel with a pocket full of cash might be more willing to treat herself than she would otherwise; she might buy some brand name items that she wouldn’t have considered earlier the same day. This momentary change in value allows casino owners to recoup some of that money before it leaves the premises.
Carl’s Clothiers (Next to Bob’s Barbershop)
Day after day Carl watched men walk in and out of Bob’s Barbershop. They came in looking scruffy and unkempt but came out looking polished and stylish. The new popularity of fades, pompadours and long, yet trimmed and styled beards created a surge in Bob’s barbering business. But Carl had not seen a similar uptick, in spite of the fact that he offered a wide range of jackets, ties, suspenders, handkerchiefs and other accessories that would look great with all these smooth hairstyles.
Carl decided to approach Bob with a proposition – could the two of them work together to create a more unique experience for these customers?
After a man gets a beard trim and a fresh fade he looks and feels better than probably any other time during the week. Carl proposed that they enhance this feeling and offer something special to Bob’s customers — free photos. Men could take advantage of the money they had just spent on a haircut to get a nice photo or two when they were looking their best; a moment of time when they feel greater value for their appearance.
Carl set up a “photo studio,” in his store with some inexpensive lighting and a vintage background. Men were told about the promotion while they were visiting Bob, and those who chose to could come over and sit for a couple of minutes to get their pictures taken. While they were in the store, Carl might suggest they put on a jacket, a vest or some suspenders for the photo, giving customers a chance to try out his merchandise and learn about his tailored suits and alterations. The photos were taken and, with permission, immediately emailed to the customer, which gave both businesses a chance to capture customer data for use in future promotions. Bob’s customers felt a little more special and Carl had the chance to familiarize potential customers with his products and services.