The Opposite Of Beer Brewed By Monks

John Cranch Monks Merrymaking c.1804

Episode 55 of the 99% Invisible podcast goes into the strange psychological phenomenon whereby certain consumers will pay huge amounts for a scarce commodity. Alcohol and handbags seem especially open to this marketing manipulation, and in this case beer, not because beer connoisseurs are being manipulated per se, but because there is a monastery in Germany whose monks brew beer — but only enough to generate funds for the monks to get by on. Turning a profit is not their business. The beer is good, apparently, but adding to its goodness is the story behind it: the monks don’t brew on Sundays of course. Nor do they brew on Fridays, because they don’t eat on Fridays. To pick up a box of the stuff you have to phone first and make a reservation. It’s hard to get through on the phone, especially since the lines are only open at certain times of the week. Then, if you manage to get through, in order to pick it up you have to drive and drive and drive through the countryside. Consequently, the beer fetches a very high price, even for its high quality, and there’s a blackish market on eBay.

I mention this because apps are the opposite of monk-brewed-beer.

Apps are available anywhere, anytime, to anyone with a device. Apps are the opposite of ‘limited supply’. They are the opposite of exclusive. The opposite of exclusive is ubiquitous; the opposite of expensive is free, and there seem to be a lot of consumers who expect good apps to be free, knowing that when they’re downloading an app, they’re not depleting any sort of resource. A traditional point of view, based on years of evolution.

The difference of course is that in order to deliver an app to the end-user, unless the end-user spends significant time scanning the long list of new apps list coming onto iTunes each day, the developer has had to spend time and resources (probably both) making the end-user aware of its existence. That long country road is no shorter, but it is traveled instead by the marketing team, not by the end-user.

Header painting: John Cranch Monks Merrymaking c.1804