Trends Leading Towards Brand Experience Design
In 1999, a couple folks published a book called "The Experience Economy," a book that I was required to read in business school. The topic itself was and still is an amazing thought; and idea companies building and delivering "experiences" to enhance their core product or service. However, at that time, very few companies were executing against these "economic" trends that were outlined and presented.
In their book "The Experience Economy," Pine and Gilmore discuss the organic evolution of the economy in which businesses must participate. Starting from commodity harvesting, product development, providing services, and leading into delivering "experiences" for customers, the book defines the core reasons for this rising expectation and what the consumer is looking for. For example, they explain the rise in popularity of Starbucks by starting with the historical past of coffee beginning as a commodity, then a product that was sold to consumers, evolving into something that was served in restaurants and delis, then finally an experience was created around the act of what "getting coffee" meant to the consumer; enter Starbucks. They were able to take this expectation driven, econonomic trend model and deliver an "experience" that help propel the Starbucks brand forward. This economic trend model that delivered massive success to folks like Starbucks and Apple, has also delivered a new segment of marketing, called Consumer Experiences.
Throughout my career, I've always held the information derived from this book as something that should be taken into consideration when solving core brand and experience problems; as I believe that the brand is only truly understood at the point of consumption. Recently more and more companies are finally taking the advice and starting to provide experiences for their consumers. But I feel there are still somethings missing in these brand expressions. These consumer experiences seem to be missing out on a core component of actually using the interaction with the consumer to make a statement about the brand, only trying to solve for the mere foundational expectations of the consumers. Meanwhile there are some brands completely missing the mark and even looking for "copy / paste" solution for their experiences. Something that would completely disregard any authenticity or statement a brand is trying to make. I've heard way too many times "We need our Genius Bar." Definitely not the right approach. It may have worked for Apple's brand authentically, but more than likely it won't work for yours.
Of course, these poorly executed case studies has my wandering mind thinking "What's Next?"
The idea of Brand Experience Design is a thought that could be the evolutionary solution. With the driving forces being the proliferation and permeation of digital technologies, the expanding consumer expectations, and the increased interaction between brands and consumers, we are living in a completely different world than the time of Pine and Gilmore, 10-20 years ago. A world where every action and every interaction matters in the consumer > brand > consumer relationship.
"Ultimately, that is what Brand Experience Design solves: the intrinsic relationship between brand and consumer where each interaction is a statement from the brand that fulfills or satisfies on it's promise, all while solving for consumers met and unmet needs."
Let's dive into these trends a bit more as they are becoming increasingly a driving force to holistic business decisions:
Proliferation and Permeation of Digital Technologies: You'd have to be living under a rock if you don't see this trend in your own life. Not only do we all have extremely powerful computers in our pockets, but the services and tools provided on those devices are connected to all the information, all the people, and all the brands we have ever wanted. These technologies not only make everything a tap away, but provide opportunities for active and passive engagement between two parties (i.e. Brand, consumer, peer, etc).
Expanding Consumer Expectations: As we've witnessed in "The Experience Economy" expectations of consumers never stall. They are continuously on the rise due to enhanced service from companies, new product experiences from competition, and cross industry service they get from others outside of your category. As we are now living in the "Experience" economy, you can bet that pretty soon the experience alone won't sastisfy the core needs for your consumers.
Increased Interaction between Brands and Consumers: An outcome of the two previous trends, consumers are now interacting with brands in a whole new way, which has forced brands out of their comfort zones to interact in that manner as well. This new level on interaction has drastically changed the dynamic between brand and consumer where the consumer gathered a tremendous amount of power in the mid 2000's when social media started to take the industry by storm; where once we lived in a world where brands controled the relationship through one way mass communication.
These core trends have created this whole new world and has provided some amazing opportunities for brands to provide exceptional, incremental, and net-new value to their consumers. That is, if it's done correctly. In the world of Pine and Gilmore, consumers didn't have the power they have now and brands didn't have the responsibility they have now. Now that brands have gained a voice in the interactions with consumers, they have a unique position to interact in a way that doesn't simply meet the basic function for the consumer, but they can act in a whole new, authentic way.
Ultimately, that is what Brand Experience Design solves: the intrinsic relationship between brand and consumer where each interaction is a statement from the brand that fulfills or satisfies on it's promise, all while solving for consumers met and unmet needs.
Next, we'll explore how to capitalize on these trends for benefit of both consumer as well as brand.