On Unique Experiences

I’ve been thinking a lot about unique experiences lately. As a consumer, I love and crave unique experiences.

Whenever I think about unique experiences, I’m usually drawn to restaurants.

Not the chain kind but the hole-in-the-wall, greasy spoon restuarants.

My thought is that anybody can find and go to a chain restaurant like Olive Garden or Abuelo’s or [insert any name brand national restaurant] … the food is extremely consistent and usually really good. The service is generally above average as most of these restaurants are well-oiled machines (or at least appear so).

But my wife and I love to find the little, cool, one-of-a-kind places with good food and even better atmosphere tucked in an old location or off the path.

We want a dining experience we can’t get everywhere. And when we have family or friends visiting we like to take them to these little joints.

In fact, whenever I travel to a new city, I always hit up Urbanspoon for the cool, unique restaurants or cafes to go to.

Here are a couple we love and frequent regularly …

Here’s a couple of thoughts about why we like those places:

  • Atmosphere is almost everything — We love unique decor and distinct feel. Irma’s has one of the most awesome nightime ‘feels.’ The wall pictures, the low ceilings, the paint and trim, it all ties together at Irma’s.
  • We want a good story — Not all of them have a good story, but the best ones have a unique background or flair; the first time we went to Flip’s, the waitress gave us the most amazing story about how they prepare their food
  • We love good food — Let’s face it, the atmosphere and service could suck, but if the food is amazing, it trumps all else. (This is about the product experience which affects all.)

Lessons for my business and yours…

With these thoughts on unique dining experiences, let’s talk about some other unique experiences with products, like Tom Bihn’s laptop bags.

(This Mashable article introduced me to Tom Bihn, a Seattle-based maker of some super-cool, hand-made laptop bags, hit it home for me and motivated me to finally write this post. Check out Tom Bihn’s laptop bags here and look for me to show you mine as I have to have one now!)

More and more as a consumer, I’m wanting unique experiences with products too.

For certain consumer products, I don’t want something that’s poorly made, cheap and of which I can find in any store.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a Mac fan boy. I love the unique feel and experience I get from using Apple products. (And so do millions of others.)

Although Apples are mass produced and there’s rarely an event I’ve been to when Mac laptops and iPhones didn’t dominate the audience, they have preserved the specialness we want in products.

I feel the unique experience when I started reading and listening to the videos on the Tom Bihn site.

Here’s why I’m almost dead set on making my next laptop bag a Tom Bihn one:

  • The demo videosthat dude, evidentally a friend and not even a company employee, walks you through all the pockets and features of the laptop bags in a unique way where I HAVE to have one … this guy loves the bags!
  • The bags are one-of-a-kind – I learned that Tom Bihn himself designs every one of them … and he designs them for himself. I can’t go in Wal-Mart, like I have with my past 3 lousy laptop bags, and get one. I have to special order these. And they are hand-made with love in Seattle.
  • Customer forum communitytheir forums are really active with awesome photos of people using their Tom Bihn bags. I want to belong to that community. It’s something we want to recreate with our brands, including iThemes.

So I’ve been thinking a lot recently for how we create unique experiences around our business and products … how we filter these values through everything we do …

As more and more companies streamline the manufacturing process, more and more consumer will crave unique experiences and products — something they can’t get just anywhere else.

What about you? What about your business? What ways are you creating one-of-a-kind experiences with your community?

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