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Carly Wickham, Head of Marketing

The value of experience is encouraging alternative payment methods

Millennials value experiences over things. A recent study conducted by Harris and sponsored by Eventbrite ( we think there may be a potential conflict of interest in that report) uncovered some very persuasive statistics to back this up.

For example, more than three in four Millennials would choose to spend money on a desirable experience or event over buying something desirable.

And 72% of millennials say they would like to increase their spending on experiences rather than physical things in the next year.

This movement away from materialism towards an appetite for real-life experiences appears to be strong. How can brands explore this change in thinking? How could it influence value exchange and provide an opportunity to look beyond monetary transactions to transacting through experiences instead? And how is the lifestyle inspired currency converted into real value and sales potential.

Here are six great examples we found:

1. Self-improvement

Brands are using self-improvement as currency. Why? It motivates consumers to live out their brand values and inspires their peers to do so. Health currency Wellcoin rewards ‘wellcoins’ for healthy activities that can translate into goods and services through their app. Walgreens, a US pharmacy, have developed an ‘Activity Tracker’ fitness wearable, which enables customers to rack up to $500 of Walgreens store credit for being active. And Nike Fuelband vending machines appeared across NY, rewarding those active enough.

Walgreen Activity Tracker app

2. Social media currency

Social currency in the form of a ‘tweet for treat’ is becoming a common phenomenon. Brand eulogists who are happy to promote their allegiance online are rewarded with a treat. Topshop and SalesForce, have both used a vending machine mechanic to distribute the gifts. Here’s another take on rewarding social media interaction, Liberty London and Tapestry have collaborated on an app that provides discount codes to Liberty shoppers if it identifies that you’ve liked Liberty brands on Instagram.

Libertys and Tapestry Instagram App collaboration

3. Rewards for happiness

This one is our favourite. Again using a vending machine delivery tool, Walls offers free ice cream, but only if your smile is big enough! Facial recognition software inside the kiosk detects the emotion of the person standing in front of it and will only dispense ice cream if it registers a smile.

Walls Share Happy Free ice cream activation

Tate & Lyle similarly handed out free bowls of porridge alongside a pop-up syrup dispenser, which would only release syrup if the customer smiled at the inbuilt monitor. According to the brand’s commissioned research, one smile can stimulate a happy mood more effectively than 2,000 chocolate bars.

4. One for Vampire lovers…

Blood as a bespoke unit of currency. To help with a national shortage of blood donations (second lowest in Europe at 1.7% of its population), Untold festival, in Romania, teamed up with the blood transfusion institute to allow visitors to pay for entry with blood.

5. Philanthropy

RockCorps uses volunteering time as currency. With a mission to channel the power of music and celebrity towards making volunteering fashionable, and a natural part of youth lifestyle, festival goers are only given tickets if they can evidence volunteering. An excellent combination.

6. Opinions

SamplingLab is a new concept where the payment comes in the form of opinions. The Portland-based store lets customers take home and try out products in exchange for their opinions, a modern take on the corporate focus group.

Looking beyond monetary discounts and loyalty points, currency can become something more aspirational. This could reboot the relevance of pop-up activations and flexible, social retail spaces. The internet culture has created a need for real life experience and discovery. How can you harness this behavioral change?