Minimalism: Seeking experiences over products

September 12, 2014

Image: Patagonia’ Well Worn campaign asks people to send in stories of their Patagonia adventures


The story of the person who is successful and wealthy  ‘selling it all’ for the simple life has become so common it’s almost an urban myth. The drivers to the ever-increasing sentiment against mindless consumption of goods are multiple – from the socio-politically charged Occupy Wall Street protests in 2012, to the environmental and socially engaged messages around wastage. A key motivation is a simple philosophy that we’ve all heard: the endless accumulation of goods does not make us happy.

The ideal of ‘the happy life’ is moving towards one of minimalism. It is driven by a desire to live a fuller, more meaningful life by stripping back and removing all the ‘stuff’ from our lives and focus instead on intangible experiences.  The ‘100 Thing Challenge’ is a grassroots movement that challenges people to reduce their ‘inventory of stuff’ to just 100 ‘things’. It forces us to re-consider what we ‘need’ to be fulfilled, and with that, the ways in which we go about seeking such fulfilment.

How we go about seeking happiness, it could be argued, is just as important as what makes us happy. James Wallman, author of Stuffocation (2013), extends this idea with a new challenge: spend the same amount of money as you would in a month, but have nothing to show for it at the end. Put another way: replace your inventory of stuff with an inventory of experiences.

Wallman puts the onus on brands to pave the way to more meaningful and engaging experiences:

"[...] Businesses, rather than trying to flog newly positioned products, but actually the same old stuff, will have to create genuinely new goods, services and adventures that give us social and experiential currency, that is a story to tell and an experience worth remembering.”

A brand that is doing this particularly well is Patagonia.  Last year they released a campaign around ‘experiential currency’. Worn Wear: The stories we wear’ is a campaign celebrating experience. Through a collection of stories about the wearers of Patagonia and their adventures, it explores the ways in which experiences bring meaning to our lives.

It is a far cry from a consumer society in which flat screen TV's make the man. Patagonia has successfully heeded Wallman’s call for brands to focus more on experiences and less on the products themselves in an age of minimalism.


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