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  • Writer's pictureRich Honiball

You Want HOW MUCH For That Light Stick?!? (Why Experience Matters)

Early Reflections: Wednesday, November 20th

Our Sunday night was spent at a concert in DC. Not just any concert, but a KPop concert, a new super group called SuperM. If you don’t know much about the current Korean pop music trend, it’s growing as bands like BTS take the world by storm. SuperM? Imagine taking the best members of Boyz II Men, Insync, and Backstreet Boys and forming a super group. Yeah, that big, and I am rushing in my nomination for “Dad of the Year” before all the feels wear off!

Of course, any good concert needs to have good “merch” (products sold at concerts is not called merchandise, it is called MERCH, please get that right. With our VIP tickets on Sunday, we had early access to the merch! Brace yourself, that means deciding between the $35 t-shirt, the $75 hoodie or the $125 tour jacket. The pragmatic sourcing merchant in me kicks in, thinking about the crappy fabric quality, the shoddy manufacturing, and the gazillion times mark-up that the artists will likely see very little of. 

Oh, and then there is the “light stick”.

We’ve been down the light stick path before in our house. Our daughter was given money for clothing when she went shopping with a friend and came back with a $50 light stick from another KPop band. I’d like to say it ended well, I’d like to say that. So, when asked if I would consider the $60 SuperM custom light stick, you know what my answer was. 


She accepted my answer and settled on the $75 “Joppin” hoodie that, while extremely overpriced for what it is, at least she will get regular use out of. (How do they apply that finish that makes it feel like medium grit sandpaper, I wonder).

Standing in line to get into the show, I swear, at least a third of the mostly female fan base had these light sticks, most from SuperM but some “vintage” (I say with amusement). My daughter and I just watched as most of them changed colors uniformly. Her with a sense of sadness, me with a sense of bewilderment.You can set them to go with this concert and someone inside runs them”, she offered, in that slightly sad tone. I listened to various fans in line, exchanging stories of how they pre-ordered them to make sure they had one (trust me dear, they had plenty), forgoing food for a couple of days to afford this hallowed treasure.

Give. Me. A. Break.

Once inside, as the arena filled up, the fog hit the stage, and the lights went out, thousands of blue dots lit up the venue. Then turning red. Then orange. Then blinking in unison, moving back and forth to the rhythm of the beat. In our day, we had a 99 cent Bic lighter that allowed us to show our appreciation. Modern technology replaced that with a smart phone flashlight, free with a $1000 purchase of any smart phone. Why someone would spend good money on a ticket, more on a hoodie, then spend $50 to $60 to show their appreciate for the band is beyond my…..


I was about to say comprehension. However. I get it now. They JOP when you are JOPPIN, they POP when you are POPPIN (don’t DROP them because they will break). They help to create the experience that as marketers we strive to create. You aren’t just showing appreciation for the show, you are in fact part of the show! Suddenly, that price / value equation started to shift a bit for me.


In a year when I have spent more on armor for my gaming avatar than I have on clothing for myself, when we have spent more on travel then we have on material possessions, this piece of plastic that likely costs less than $10 to make suddenly has significant value. It is “Blue Ocean Strategy” at its finest, a reinvention, re-imagination, a creation of worth that previously didn’t exist. Standing there, listening to thousands of screaming, crying fans, I calculated the revenue and profit (I am the “Rain Man” of margin) and thought to myself, got to hand it to you, well done.

Experience matters. Not having a light stick didn’t stop my daughter from having “one of the best experiences ever” and she wore her new hoodie the next day to school. But as we go into the holiday season, driving value for our patrons and profitable revenue that helps to support our sailors, it is a great reminder that the experience we create, especially when immersive, is what matters most of all.

You could call that a “light stick” going on over my head. Get it? Ok, that was pushing it…


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