Monday, October 13, 2008

The "Wow Factor"

Did you ever notice how kids' lives revolve around the "Wow" factor?  No, I don't mean "Hey, you played a great soccer game young lady, let's take the whole family out for ice cream sundaes and I'll kick in for extra whip cream!"  No way man, those days are a generation or two in the rear view mirror.  Kids are always seeking their next great roller coasting, mind numbing thrill ride.

In fact the "Wow Factor" requires incrementally more zip and zing as kids get older.  Perhaps, it's simply the development of a better memory. We can excite the 4-year old triplets by stating that we're going to a nice park WITH swings.  Now, the ten-year old needs a heavier jolt like a trip to an amusement park followed by a nice dinner (of her choice)  then and a movie with buttered popcorn, and finally the day is followed by "what are we doing tomorrow?" The whole sequence starts fresh the next day....

Well speaking of an amusement park and dinner.  One notable example of how the "Wow Factor" has changed in the past thirty years is John's Incredible Pizza.   Originally a cozy pizza parlor located in my tiny desert California hometown (gasp, should I mention where I'm from or not..........NO),  John's Pizza WAS the destination for lunch, dinner, little league teams, company meetings, and after sporting event treats.  Parents understood the please "keep 'em coming" quarter requirement to feed those "new" towering video machines like "Space Invaders" and "Donkey Kong."

I was no different, and of course when John's Pizza began serving home made ice cream, I was certainly near the front of the line.  As time went by, the quaint pizza parlor expanded to include more video games, and eventually even a small game area (think diet Chuck E. Cheese).
John Parlett, the entrepreneur and pizza baron sold his original business, but soon realized an opportunity to build on the "Wow Factor" where kids (& families) could consume pizza and then play. He went beyond the Chuck E. Cheese model adding roller coasters, bumper cars and fun rides to target and thrill older children.  Last time I checked, John had nine locations throughout California.

I've always admired John and respect his business acumen to see a need (or want) and develop a successful business model.  He understood the "Wow Factor" and spun it into the ultimate family fun center. He knows kids in 2008 require more to thrill and excite than us simple folks in the 70's, 60's, 50's, and before.

Of course, one might argue that the "Thrill Factor" applies to grown-ups as well.  No, I disagree.  I tell my kids that an IPOD, satellite radio and cell phone with Internet access are simply out of necessity, not toys.  A late model car might look sharp and ride well, but its main purpose is safety and reliability. Finally, a childless trip to Hawaii  simply serves to temporarily relieve the burden of thinking of new ways to wow the kids.  Yeah, and the older the child, the less likely she buys off on this bull sh#$%$t either!

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