Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Attraction to the Inaccessible

In this country, businessmen and women often look at the demand of their product and produce enough to easily meet that demand, in order to gain as much revenue as they can (I know, the first sentences of all of my other blog posts usually head in completely different directions - i.e., television, gladiators, soy sauce, etc.) That business model seems logical in terms of seeking profits, but look at some examples of businesses that have headed in different directions...

The Nintendo Wii. Almost impossible to find one right now. From reports, Nintendo execs insist that failing to meet the demand for the system is not something that they want to do (suuuuure). However, look at the buzz surrounding the Wii. The fact that it is hard to find one available definitely contributes to the attractiveness of it. You can easily find a PS3 anywhere, but do you want to shell out twice as much money for something that you can find without effort? The PS3's are sitting on shelves, while the Wii's are barely touching the shelves before someone buys one.

With Christmastime around the corner, it makes me think of the
classic holiday toy madness. Remember Furby? Tickle-me-Elmo? How about that awesome Schwarzenegger movie Jingle All The Way? Granted, the demand for some of these products was triggered by the puppy-dog eyes of begging children, but sometimes parents just follow the buzz of what the popular Christmas toy is for that year, regardless of what their children ask for.

The reason that this idea sparked into my mind is because of an article about a Belgian brewery (ahhh, now you all realize where I was headed with this one). As part of the several Trappist beers, Westvleteren beer is brewed by a monastery of monks. Never heard of it? You would think you would have since it rolls off the tongue...but you almost definitely have not heard of it and that's no accident. In order to get your hands on this beer, you have to travel to the gates of their monastery. But it's not even that simple. You have to call "the beer phone" in order to know when it is that you can get whichever beer that they have available. You are then instructed to call back at another time. Finally, you make a reservation day for when you are to go to the monastery to pick up the even have to give them the license plate number of the car that will be picking it up. THEN you go to the monastery to pick it up. It almost seems illegal how the process works. And the beer phone is ringing off the hook! They put traditional business models to shame.

It's all for good reason though. The monks are not looking to make any profit from their brewing. They definitely do not advertise...they don't even put labels on their bottles
(if they did advertise, I'd go with the slogan, "You'll be swearin'...unless you get some Westvleteren!") Obviously, people have tried to go through the lengthy process and then resell the beer at astronomical prices. However, the monks not only mildly discourage reselling...they seek out people who do it and try to get them to stop! Despite the tiresome process that is involved with getting Westvleteren beer, people are claiming that it is some of, if not the, best beer in the world. Again, an attraction to what's inaccessible. There is no doubt in my mind that the beer is fantastic, but other Belgian beers are readily accessible around the world (Delirium, Chimay, and Leffe to name a few), and my guess is that Westvleteren would be rated among those (all of which are excellent) if it were distributed widely. Hell, years ago, Coors wasn't distributed to the East Coast so it was "cool" to drink it because it was different than the norm. I admit I love to tap the Rockies once in a while but I'm not bragging when I pick up a case of it at one of the millions of places of where it's sold. The process of getting Westvleteren adds to its excellence. It's like the Mount Everest summit to beer-lovers...and I'll have to organize an expedition someday...


Tom Whalen said...

AH, after all the beer posts I finally realize that $150K plus for the marketing degree from Fairfield U really had an impact!


Mike said...

The best part of "the inaccessible" is the secondary marketplace it opens up for people like me who can use technology to "access" it and mark it up for ridiculously high prices.

You wouldn't happen to know anyone who wants a Wii, would you?