We only ever remember stories. This is true when it comes to new places we visit, experiences we try, people we meet, products we use.
If you want to build something that’s truly viral you have to create a total mindfuck experience.
That was Brian Chesky, Co-Founder and CEO of Airbnb. And “mindfuck” could be one of two things: either it’s completely horrendous OR it’s absolutely, undeniably amazing. Either way, it has to be on the extreme side for it to leave a stamp on someone’s mind.
We basically took one part of our product and we extrapolated what would a five star experience be. Then we went crazy.
So a one, two, or three star experience is you get to your Airbnb and no one’s there. You knock on the door. They don’t open. That’s a one star. Maybe it’s a three star if they don’t open, you have to wait 20 minutes. If they never show up and you’re pissed and you need to get your money back, that’s a one star experience. You’re never using us again.
This is the the negative extreme side, and likely not how we generally want to remember anything, or be remembered for that matter.
So a five star experience is you knock on the door, they open the door, they let you in. Great. That’s not a big deal. You’re not going tell every friend about it. You might say, “I used Airbnb. It worked.”
At five stars, we are satisfied, no complaints, we get what we expected. But there is no story. If we are to create a “mindfuck” experience, this would only be level zero.
What’s a seven star experience? You knock on the door. Reid Hoffman opens. Get in. “Welcome. Here’s my full kitchen. I know you like surfing. There’s a surfboard waiting for you. I’ve booked lessons for you. It’s going to be an amazing experience. By the way here’s my car. You can use my car. And I also want to surprise you. There’s this best restaurant in the city of San Francisco. I got you a table there.” And you’re like, “Whoa. This is way beyond.”
This is way beyond. At this point, we’ve crossed the line and went a step farther from “it was great!” to “whoa”. Jaw drop. Somebody is definitely going to talk about it. But what if we push a little further?
What would eleven star experience be? I would show up at the airport and you’d be there with Elon Musk and you’re saying, “You’re going to space.” The point of the the process is that maybe 9, 10, 11 are not feasible. But if you go through the crazy exercise of keep going, there’s some sweet spot between they showed up and they opened the door and I went to space. That’s the sweet spot. You have to almost design the extreme to come backwards.
Now we’ve gone from jaw drop to mic drop to panty drop. The entire world will remember this story. In my world, five stars is a random, forgettable quarter I reached my business target. Ten stars is shaking hands with Mark Zuckerberg. Five stars is finding time to do 1.5 hours of yoga 3x a week. Ten stars is training under the tutelage of Ido Portal.
We only ever remember stories. And stories only come out of mindfuck experiences, which only happen in the space way beyond (or way below) five stars.
What is your beyond five star experience?
The above quotes from Brian Chesky’s feature in Reid Hoffman’s podcast, Masters of Scale. The podcast mostly speaks about scaling businesses, but a thing or two or more can be learned about life. I highly recommend it. Among others, he has interviewed Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Eric Schmidt and Reed Hastings. It’s quite delicious.