Roger Tomilson tweeted about Harvard Business Review article that provides some food for thought about how people might experience arts and culture.
I’ll jump right to a quote since the article title, “Customers Won’t Pay as Much for Digital Goods — and Research Explains Why,” pretty much provides the all the introduction you need.
The greater value ascribed to physical than digital goods persisted when we accounted for people’s estimates of production costs and retail prices. It even held for goods with no resale value. Plausible alternative explanations, such as physical goods lasting longer or being more enjoyable to use than digital goods, also failed to explain this difference.
Only a difference in the extent to which people feel a sense of ownership for digital and physical objects explained their preference for the physical format. Indeed, the value gap disappeared for goods participants rented and expected to give back.
Because ownership entails a link between a person and an object, we found the gap in their value increased when that link was easy to form and disappeared when that link was hard to establish. Participants valued a physical copy of The Empire Strikes Back more than a digital copy, for instance, only if they considered the Star Wars series to be films with which they strongly identified. Participants who weren’t Star Wars fans valued physical and digital copies similarly.
To summarize: People value physical objects more than digital ones when the object represents something with which they closely identify, even if it has no monetary value, if they don’t have to give it back.
As much as I would like it to, this doesn’t really address whether people value physical encounters with transitory experiences like attending a performance or visiting a museum versus seeing a recording or a digital copy of a piece of visual art.
Even if I did try to wedge a rationalization in there, we’d still be left with the finding that, regardless of format, people place an equal value on things they don’t feel are relevant to them. Which means, people won’t automatically start to value art if they experience the physical manifestation. (You probably didn’t need research to tell you that.)
What I wondered is whether having something physical to take away from the experience facilitates in creating more value for people. Do well designed, informative playbills/programs/information sheets/gallery maps, etc help to solidify value for people even if they ultimately decide to toss it? Versus nothing or an digital media tour that is only available at the venue.
If so, does the effect increase if a hand-on activity is provided which produces something people can take with them? Is a link forged when someone executes an expression of personal creativity? It may have no value to anyone else but it is simultaneously allowing people to participate in the creative process and generating a physical manifestation connected to the experience.
Does this provide a greater sense of ownership and investment in the experience?
And if you are nodding affirmatively and thinking “yes” to yourself, here is the next question – Where do selfie pictures fit in?
They are creative expressions but in digital form. Research has shown people feel selfies and digital recording enhance the experience…they just can’t accurately remember the content of the experience. One potential way to mitigate this is to offer background and props for people to use in selfies as a way of saying, “we would prefer you not use your devices during the show, but we want you to remember this experience.”
Thoughts? Opinions? Ideas?
I would be interested to see if the presence of a gift shop/souvenirs increases value for people over places that don’t offer them. How many of you would stock cheesy snowglobes if there was a correlation with increased return visits in a 5 year period?