The Only Two Things People Actually Want to Buy

Seth Godin has long been an inspiring figure around our office. His “be remarkable” mantra has been the foundation of a lot of what we do at Strat Lab. For a time our logo even incorporated Seth’s “purple cow” concept. So when I began searching for podcasts to listen to during my drives to and from the office and meetings last week Seth’s name naturally came up. While Seth doesn’t appear to keep up a regular weekly podcast himself, he makes frequent appearances on all manner of podcasts to do with marketing, business, and life. I happened to stumble across Krista Tippett’s amazing show On Being and cued up her interview with Seth, during which he dropped a concept that blew my mind a little bit.

It’s like this. There are two distinct schools of thought when it comes to society and the economy. One is that people by their nature need stuff. Their main motivation is to buy as many “things” as possible. Success is determined by the number of things you have versus the people around you, and businesses should strive to create the shiniest things for the lowest possible price. Seth calls this mindset the “Walmart Economy”. Doesn’t quite sounds right, does it?

The other school of thought says that people don’t actually care about things all that much anymore. Our generation has gotten used to the instant gratification that comes with having “stuff” and its appeal has drastically worn off for us. Gone are the days when people prided themselves for having a slightly better barbecue than their next door neighbour. Instead, people only really care about things that can give them one of two things: Time and personal connections.

These are the two things we find ourselves lacking more and more as we seem to get busier and more plugged into a digital world that feels increasingly isolating. We tend to focus less on the bells and whistles of a product or service and instead prefer things (be it a gadget or an app) that save us much-needed time that we can spend doing things that we actually want to do. If it doesn’t save time, it better create ways to connect with other people in a meaningful way. Products that create communities give people the validation they used to get from having the shiniest new car. As a society that feels increasingly disconnected from one another, the companies that allow us to connect with like-minded people are the ones that will get our business.

This is the future Seth sees. In the world of Amazon where we can quickly and easily get the things we need with the click of a button, the things we want will be entirely things that achieve these two ends. So ask yourself, is my business saving people time or connecting people? If not, it might be time to rethink your widget.