The $14,500 Dessert

    September 25, 2007

That’s the question a resort in Sri Lanka is asking, in offering the world’s most expensive dessert.

You’re initial reaction to a $14,500 dessert is probably along the same lines as mine. You’re possibly wondering who would be dumb enough to think an after dinner treat is worth that much money. But the resort is not asking if “The Fortress Stilt Fisherman Indulgence” is worth $14,500. Of course it isn’t. No dessert is. What the resort is asking in typical Seth Godinese is are you worthy of this dessert that costs $14,500.

CBS News has the AP Story and in an aside to CBS News

desert is an arid region of land

dessert is the final course of a meal

I forget which is which too, but it appears several times in the AP article so you didn’t have to look far for the correct spelling. Please check your headline.</aside>

Is $14,500 As Crazy As It Sounds?

$14,500 for dessert seems insane. I’d have a hard time justifying $14.50 for dessert, but is it really that crazy? You and I can’t afford the price, but there are people who can. To Bill Gates $14,500 isn’t much. It’s probably less than $14.50 to you or I. There are people who can afford to spend the exorbitant price for what sounds like an interesting dessert.

The dessert is a gold leaf Italian cassata flavored with Irish cream, served with a mango and pomegranate compote and a champagne sabayon enlighten. The dessert is decorated with a chocolate carving of a fisherman clinging to a stilt, an age old local fishing practice, and an 80 carat aquamarine stone.

I have no idea how much something like that is truly worth, but I do know that charging so much is less crazy that in sounds. The price creates a purple cow. It creates something truly remarkable. No matter what you think how could you not comment on a dessert that costs more than the annual salary of many people around the world? The price alone does most of the marketing

Charging $1,450 for dessert is insane. No dessert is worth that price either, but at $1,450 you’re not going to talk to people about it except to complain. Charging 10 times that price pushes it to the edge and makes you wonder what’s so special about that dessert for it to cost so much. Safe is not remarkable. Safe is actually risky.

How many desserts does the hotel need to sell to turn a profit? Not many. They don’t need to market to a large group of people. There are enough people who can afford this dessert to make a target market. And even if they don’t sell a single dessert the idea of it establishes a certain cachet for the resort.

$500 For Dessert, $14,000 For A Good Story

Believe it or not such an overpriced dessert is offering a free prize inside for anyone who dares to indulge. A free prize worth enough that someone may just bite at both the price and the dessert itself. The free prize is the one of a kind experience that comes with “The Fortress Stilt Fisherman Indulgence” and how much it strokes your own ego to know you can afford it. You’re buying something very few people will ever get to experience because they can’t.

But you can afford it and in being able to pay for such an overpriced dessert you get to believe a story about yourself that you’re somehow worth more than the rest of us. Spending so frivolously strokes your ego and reinforces a story you want to believe.

If you read the AP story you’ll see no one has yet to order the dessert, though some have called about it. Will the hotel sell “The Fortress Stilt Fisherman Indulgence” to anyone? Again I don’t know, but I have a suspicion if they do manage to sell one they’ll sell more. You’re not buying dessert for $14,500, you’re buying a story you can tell yourself. You’re buying the idea that you are worth a $14,500 dessert.

Think of the competition at the top of the financial chain. Do you want to be the only billionaire that hasn’t eaten “The Fortress Stilt Fisherman Indulgence?” And at $14,500 aren’t you going to convince yourself it was delicious and worth every bite. This dessert will get good reviews if only because no one will ever admit it wasn’t good.

The take away here isn’t that some resort in Sri Lanka is ripping off billionaires. Quite the contrary. They’re delivering on a story that could well be worth more than the price they’re charging and establishing an image of the hotel in your mind.

The take away is that people aren’t buying your products or services based on price alone. They’re buying based on how your products and services make them feel and how they can feel about themselves for buying and how buying from you reflects back on them.

Take a look at whatever it is you sell right now and ask yourself what benefits it offers to your customers. Think beyond the obvious. Does that grandfather clock tell time or does it connect you to a certain class and elegance. A cuckoo clock tells time too, but no one would think it the same as the clock with the giant pendulum.

Understand why people are really buying what you have to sell.