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This week, Naomi reflects on what has come and gone in terms of trends over the years, and issues a clarion call to support Australian businesses going forward.
What’s next in the experiential giving game? It’s a question I’m frequently asked. Certainly, ours is an area that’s ever-evolving. It’s what keeps me fascinated, and our clients coming back for more, as we seek ever more enticing and relevant ways in which to entertain, connect, make memories and have a blast!
RedBalloon has been in the business of gift-giving and story-making for well over 20 years. And yes, we’ve definitely seen trends come and go. In our early days, active and/ or ‘unusual’ pursuits like bungee jumping and taking adrenaline-charged fast car and aeroplane rides were all the rage. People simply hadn’t had the opportunity to do a lot of these things, and we made it both possible and accessible.
Later, as people became more discerning, ‘money-can’t buy’ experiences like exclusive dinners, bespoke tastings and incomparable wilderness adventures came to the fore.
Now though, we’re about much more than trends. I believe there’s been a seismic shift in how people want to spend their leisure time, and with whom.
The Covid-19 years, for all the inconveniences (and in the worst cases, tragedies) they delivered us, resulted in behavioural change for a whole generation. I’m particularly interested in how that extraordinary time affected the way we now view work.
A 2021 BBC article quite presciently postulated that “the days of large city centre office HQs are over.” It quoted business psychologist Pip Gwynn as saying the challenge for businesses was how to bring staff together, rather than simply shutting down office space. She noted that people missed their colleagues; the support they got, the gossip, the chance to solve problems together and be creative. Some people thrived on solitude, but many others didn’t.
Pip observed that, while some relished working from home, others struggled with mixing their private and professional spaces: Also, “We have really started to value the human aspects of each other… We get to see a lot more about each other, you see people with kids sitting in the background, you see their cats…You are seeing your boss, who always used to wear a suit and tie, sitting at his kitchen table wearing a hoodie.”
Fundamentally, even while the lines between the workplace and home became increasingly blurred, we still craved that innate interaction with one another.
Some pundits assume the experiences people crave will become increasingly tech-based; smarter, more ‘sophisticated’. I’m not so sure about that. Connection is still everything. Truthfully, I am concerned about the virtual world – about AI taking over. Sticking on a headset and providing people with some sort of ‘virtual experience’ is not the same thing.
If anything, I think we’re overwhelmed with electronic stimulation and we need to get back to reality – to literally feel the surf, smell the eucalyptus, touch our other (not just auditory or visual) senses. Think real, not fake.
Post-Covid, people valued experiences more than anything. They missed going to restaurants and being with the people who were important to them. So while the economic outlook may be shaky in the short term, in that short term, here in Australia we can still have a really good time.
We’re part of what’s termed the ‘lipstick’ economy (you know – can’t afford a designer dress, can afford a bright red lippy – so why not?!) While you can’t take your to kids to Disneyland, you can take them to Dreamworld. You can’t stretch to going to Paris, but you can have beautiful shucked oysters – all around Australia. Here, we’re relatively cheap in terms of value. And you don’t need a passport.
I really want to encourage people to spend their money in Australia. So
much money has gone offshore, particularly this year – and it is so expensive overseas! Our family were over there, and we actually came home early for this very reason. We ended up going on an incredible experience in the Kimberley and I remember thinking, ‘I don’t think I need to leave this country ever again’!
We really are so lucky with this pristine country of ours. Of course, it’s not perfect, and there are lots of things we could do better, but we should really be very proud.
Sadly, we’ve not seen inbound tourism anywhere near match what has gone offshore this year. So I think we just need to encourage people to enjoy these wonderful, local Australian experiences…otherwise they won’t be there. People will say “It’s too hard” – it’s literally too hard to run these small businesses. They need customers.
I feel it’s incumbent upon us – not just RedBalloon, but the whole of the Big Red Group – to remind people what’s available… that it’s easy, and it’s accessible, and honestly it’s out of this world amazing.
We have to keep letting people know what’s possible. And we’ll always be trying to make even more fantastic things possible. Possibility: that’s the future, right there!