Exclusivity no longer lives here

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Recently, I went to a restaurant which is only open on Thursdays, and only for dinner. It’s located in an apartment in an ordinary residential building, with no sign anywhere indicating that there’s a restaurant inside. In fact, you need to know exactly which bell to ring if you want the door to open. The restaurant only has a couple of tables and a bar with a pair of barstools. There’s some sitting-room furniture and an armchair in the corner. The menu includes a single appetizer, main dish and desert, same for all, and on weekly rotation. The menu is in plain sight on a wall thanks to a projector. Unlike the food selection, the selection of drinks, particularly cocktails, is impressive, and the waiter will offer all the necessary information and recommendations. By the way, the entire room is decorated with a 70s vibe, including an old gramophone, but not just for artistic purposes; in fact, it actually plays vinyl records with 70s tracks, depending, it seems, on the waiter’s inclination. Only cash payments are accepted. Oh, and… there’s a discrete sign saying that taking photos and videos is prohibited.

I didn’t know that such a place exists. I was invited for a dinner by a friend who was there for the first time when his friend had invited him, and after that, he went there several more times, each time inviting one of his friends to join him.

The restaurant doesn’t have its website, Facebook,  Instagram, Twitter, nor any of it. But it wasn’t an obstacle for me to say proudly to my friends that I was in a special place, for which I used, among other things, email, Viber and WhatsApp and other services. That’s how, through my shares, they received a promotional media channel, without using any of the existing ones, and they got it for free. And I had to share my experience, because it was pure exclusivity. And now I’m sharing this exclusive story with you too.

I know this sounds a bit arrogant, so let’s look at what exclusivity actually stands for today. The main criteria which determines the boundaries of exclusivity in today’s market economy is material status. Price is the dividing line between those who can afford a product or service, and those who can’t. That’s why deals and savings are such an efficient method which gives people the feeling that they’ve crossed this line, because it creates the illusion that they’ve managed to obtain a product or experience that they otherwise can’t. That’s why it’s in the interest of the salespersons and corporations for people to constantly have an image of what is inaccessible to them, in order to constantly strive for it. In the practically limitless offer of products surrounding buyers, these products are actually planted by selling people an image of a better version of themselves. The bargain price is what makes it difficult to resist this image. That’s why we buy so many things that we don’t need, because it satisfies our craving for feeling special. That’s what marketing is for, since it’s used the development of new media platforms on devices we no longer leave home without, to elevate ad campaign attacks to a whole new level and turn them into a ceaseless carpet bombing of sorts.

In this kind of world, the very existence of a product unheard of in this virtually all-knowing environment, represents exclusivity. From the way in which I learned that such a restaurant even exists, to my curiosity about what I would experience there; from carefully analyzing my surroundings from the moment I entered during the entire animated conversation I had with the friend who’d brought me there. And lest I forget, the food was good. By “good” I mean tasty, and not just photo-worthy, although I’m not denying that it was, it’s just that this thought never even came to mind. Plus, the prices are quite affordable. The combination of all of the above made this an exclusive event as far as I’m concerned.

This example from another perspective is another proof of how much the media world in which we live has changed. Until yesterday, access to information was limited, because the number of media channels was limited, so the possibility of accessing these channels was in the domain of exclusivity. Today, online platforms have turned each of us into a media channel, which makes the amount of information we are surrounded by such big that even the access to information doesn’t belong to the exclusive domain. Buried under all sorts of media trash, we are less and less able to recognize what truly matters to us, and increasingly accepting of the information we’re most exposed to as crucial, with the information which target us as buyers and offers us this “consumer exclusivity” at a certain price, ranked the highest.

There is, however, a silver lining. If you have a product which you think people might need, don’t immediately start thinking about the price and the great deal you could make. Instead, think about what makes this product special, what is it about this product that will get people talking. What will give people the reason to share this story with others? Social networks and new media are platforms where we can publish information about our new product quickly, easily and simply. But it’s not just a bulletin board, but a communication channel with potential customers. The way in which you draw the attention of those you are addressing to is changing. It’s no longer about how to get the attention, but how to earn it. Shouting from the rooftops is getting old, and we’ll increasingly begin to recognize exclusivity where, until recently, we wouldn’t have known something was even there.

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