Intangible value

Sell the intangible value. Reality is costly to change, perception less so.


  • Disney theme parks just don’t have sufficient space on their rides to seat every visitor at the same time. Rather than trying to resolve that problem, which would be prohibitively expensive, they have made the act of traveling between rides and waiting in line for a ride into an intangibly valuable experience. Making lemonade from wait-time lemons actually added to the intangible value of spending a day at a Disney theme park. Instead of just going for the rides, people go for the emotional ambience of the entire park. Disney cleverly found a way to make people value the very thing that could have been their downfall.


Rory Sutherland, the Executive Creative Director at Oglivy & Mather UK, suggests that most value-related problems are problems of perception rather than function, and so it’s often much more productive to tinker with perceptions rather than reality.

How to sell intangible value

  • Don’t change what you do, change how you position it. You can create differentiation from your competitors by focusing on the intangible, emotional element of your product or service.
  • List the features that differentiate you from competitors in a way that appeals to people’s emotions as well as to their rational thought processes. Emotional responses, although “intangible,” can be very powerful.
  • Focus on the relationship that people have with your brand rather than the direct functionality of your products. For instance, Angie’s List’s tag line is “reviews you can trust®.” Lots of sites offer reviews, but only Angie’s List owns trusted reviews.
  • Find ways to turn negatives into positives. Wait time is an opportunity for brand messaging or entertainment; subscription fees imply higher quality content.