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Would you sleep on a chunk of ice? Building your “experience résumé”

Oct. 18, 2010
Courtesy of University of Chicago Press Journals
and World Science staff

If sleep­ing on a bed of ice or eat­ing bacon-flavored ice cream does­n’t sound too ap­peal­ing, con­sid­er the tale you’ll have to tell about it lat­er. 

Ac­cord­ing to a new study in the Jour­nal of Con­sum­er Re­search, some peo­ple can’t re­sist a chance to col­lect ex­pe­ri­ences. And many of them are the same peo­ple who strive to use their time ef­fi­ciently and pro­duc­tive­ly.

Multitudes of con­sumers lust af­ter “unu­su­al and nov­el con­sump­tion ex­pe­ri­ences,” even if these seem un­pleas­ant, not­ed the au­thors, Anat Kei­nan of Har­vard Busi­ness School and Ran Ki­vetz of Co­lum­bia Busi­ness School.

“A fas­ci­nat­ing ex­am­ple is the in­creas­ing pop­u­lar­ity of Ice Ho­tels, where vis­i­tors sleep on beds made of ice in frig­id tem­per­a­tures of 25 de­grees F. A si­m­i­lar trend is ob­served in con­sumers’ din­ing pref­er­ences: many restau­rants are try­ing to at­tract con­sumers by of­fer­ing un­usu­al en­trees and desserts. Such gas­tro­nom­ic in­nova­t­ions in­clude tequila-mustard sor­bet, bacon-flavored ice cream, and choc­o­late truf­fles with vin­e­gar and an­chovies.”

Con­sum­ers are at­tracted to these ac­ti­vi­ties and prod­ucts be­cause they view them as op­por­tun­i­ties to col­lect new ex­pe­ri­ences and build their “ex­pe­ri­en­tial CV,” or “ré­sumé,” the au­thors wrote. 

This de­sire, they added, is linked to a con­tin­u­al striv­ing to use time ef­fi­ciently and pro­duc­tive­ly. These peo­ple so pow­er­fully want to ac­com­plish more in less time that it not only af­fects their work ac­ti­vity, but of­ten “their lei­sure pref­er­ences and con­sump­tion choic­es,” the au­thors wrote.

In a se­ries of ex­pe­ri­ments, the re­search­ers found that a “pro­duc­ti­vity ori­enta­t­ion” made par­ti­ci­pants more in­clined to de­sire col­lectible ex­pe­ri­ences. They sur­veyed rev­el­ers cel­e­brat­ing New Year’s Eve in New York City’s Times Square; sen­ior cit­i­zens at­tend­ing con­fer­ences on re­tire­ment and ag­ing; park vis­i­tors; train and air­port trav­el­ers; and peo­ple who are try­ing to vis­it all 50 states.

The results could prove handy for tour­ism agen­cies and oth­er mar­keters, Kei­nan and Ki­vetz wrote: “our find­ings sug­gest that mar­keters of un­usu­al con­sump­tion ex­pe­ri­ences and in­novative prod­ucts should tar­get con­sumers who are con­cerned with be­ing pro­duc­tive (and col­lecting ex­pe­ri­ences).”


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If sleeping on a bed of ice or eating bacon-flavored ice cream doesn’t sound too appealing, consider the tale you’ll have to tell about it later. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, some people can’t resist a chance to collect experiences. And many of them are the same people who strive to use their time efficiently and productively. Many consumers lust after “unusual and novel consumption experiences,” even if these seem unpleasant, noted the authors, Anat Keinan of Harvard Business School and Ran Kivetz of Columbia Business School. “A fascinating example is the increasing popularity of Ice Hotels, where visitors sleep on beds made of ice in frigid temperatures of 25 degrees F. A similar trend is observed in consumers’ dining preferences: many restaurants are trying to attract consumers by offering unusual entrees and desserts. Such gastronomic innovations include tequila-mustard sorbet, bacon-flavored ice cream, and chocolate truffles with vinegar and anchovies.” Consumers are attracted to these activities and products because they view them as opportunities to collect new experiences and build their “experiential CV,” or resume, the authors wrote. And this desire is linked to a continual striving to use time efficiently and productively. These people so powerfully want to accomplish more in less time that it not only affects their work activity, but often “their leisure preferences and consumption choices,” the authors wrote. In a series of experiments, the researchers found that a “productivity orientation” made participants more inclined to desire collectible experiences. They surveyed revelers celebrating New Year’s Eve in New York City’s Times Square; senior citizens attending conferences on retirement and aging; park visitors; train and airport travelers; and people who are trying to visit all 50 states. The findings could prove useful for tourism agencies and other marketers, Keinan and Kivetz wrote: “our findings suggest that marketers of unusual consumption experiences and innovative products should target consumers who are concerned with being productive (and collecting experiences).”