Experiences Over Stuff

If you have stayed in a Marriott hotel lately, you have likely seen the commercial that is running on the welcome screen promoting Marriott Bonvoy Moments, their rewards program. With the program, guests trade in their points for experiences like a curated dinner with a Michelin star chef or a meet and greet with Formula One Superstar Lewis Hamilton. These experiences sound amazing and next level but are also one of the reasons that I remain loyal to the Marriott brand (I can’t wait to spend my points on a trip to Bora Bora). As I become more familiar with our guests at NASCAR, and connected with what it takes to create experience-based rewards, it makes me think about what a fan would be willing to do to in exchange for something truly special.

During the last off-season, we made a handful of strategic decisions all focused on driving a higher level of guest satisfaction when attending a NASCAR race. Fans communicate with us through a post-event survey where they continue to say that they highly value unique experiences that build lifelong memories with their friends and family.

The team at Speedway Motorsports is piloting a program called EchoPark Coffee Cup Series where NASCAR legends Michael Waltrip and Kyle Petty will be hanging out at the Echo Park display to have coffee with fans. This play on the activity of gathering for cars and coffee is a fun one and something that has become widely popular around the country. Instead of investing in a tchotchke that fans will throw straight in the garbage, Speedway Motorsports has instead invested in providing a memorable experience for everyone in attendance.

Activities like Coffee Cup Series as well as other experience-based rewards are harder to develop as you can’t make a call to China and order 100K premium experiences to hand out to your guests. However, what they do is create something much more valuable… they connect you to your guest in a much deeper way. I will be curious to see the long-term advantage of this way of thinking and am excited to learn what fans are willing to do to earn these unique benefits.

I am blessed with the ability to have nearly limitless access to NASCAR stars (past and present) as well as 38 opportunities a year to create these experiences that can’t be bought for guests coast-to-coast. Now the question is, how do I encourage behaviors that we want and discourage fewer desirable practices?

For example, how can we incentivize guests to buy their tickets early and not wait until race week to make a purchase? Would fans renew their tickets a year out if they were entered  into a sweepstakes awarding one of them an opportunity to ride in the pace car as the field prepared to take the green flag for the first laps of the race?

Experience-based incentives are the reason I am loyal to American Airlines and Marriott Hotels but also help lay the foundation for memories that I attribute to those brands. Therefore, my loyalty to their company is strengthened. It’s not a complicated formula but one that can be rewarding for both parties when done right.

I am not sure why I log 99% of my blog writing time sitting on a plane. Yet, here I am again, looking out the window at 30K feet as I head to Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, to have coffee with Michael Waltrip before today’s NASCAR Cup Series race. I feel like this is some of the best time that I have to  think about ways to reward guests with experiences rather than stuff. And I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.

Let me know what brands you are loyal to and why. I am curious to see what other incentives we should be considering.

Hope to see you trackside soon,