Living on the Grid: Experience Focus

Hello, thanks for reading “Living on the Grid” series This is the fourth in a series of 2×2 grids to help explain or demonstrate concepts from the world of business..

In this edition, I wanted to look at emotional memory. Recently, I have been doing some research on emotional triggers and memory. I began exploring how emotions can focus an experience being created. Can you shape a staged experience on the idea of a single emotion. I was surprised at some of the possibilities.

In the diagram below, I wanted to explore the the various possibilities between an emotion as a key design element and the focus of the timeframe for the memory. I realize this is a simple mix, and the possibilities of other emotions is expansive, yet this simple 2×2 was the start of an idea of which I will expand on later.

In the vertical axis, I identify time tense as on key attribute. The range of time is from past to future given the experience is in the present. Along the horizontal axis the focus is on two polar emotions being Sadness and Happiness. Happiness is the easier of the two emotions, but sadness does have its examples and can create some very dynamic experiences.

Looking to happiness first, across the time bar, we can determine if the emotion being staged if drawn from the past or is creating one for the future. Sort of the idea of made versus make on the memory scale. In the idea of past happiness, we look to revivals of better times. Disney designed its entrance places around the look of olde time town square. A memory of wholesomeness and innocence.

In the same emotion, a designer can stage an experience where the idea of making happy memories is the key design element. Take maker labs as an example. Groups come together to create or make both something to show, but also memories. National Parks are also places to create happy memories that can be shared through photos.

Okay, now sadness. Who would ever design something that evokes sadness intentionally. Well, in reflection of past tragedies or hardship we create memorials . Look at the lights of the twin towers in New York, or the Holocaust Museum in DC. These were experiences that leveraged the past emotion of sadness and sorrow to stage a commemorative experience in the Esthetic realm of experiences.

Okay, but what about the future? How does sadness play in the future for experience design. Imagine a Science Fiction based-themed apocalyptic world were zombies where you must escape or be eaten alive. Laser tag sport arenas and online gaming thrive in this combination of future sadness. Sure the outcome may be that of happiness, but the initial premise is Future sadness.

I hope this sparks some thinking on your next experience design project and I would enjoy hearing how you mixed time and emotion as part of your experience.

If you enjoy this article or this series concept, please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear your feedback and possible ideas for upcoming 2×2 grids.

Until next we chat, this is Living on the Grid.

Living on the Grid: Spending Time

Hello, thanks for reading “Living on the Grid” series This is the third in a series of 2×2 grids to help explain or demonstrate concepts from the world of business..

In this edition, I wanted to look at time spent and the perceived value. In numerous conversations around value or an experience with various experience stagers and business consultants, a common idea kept emerging from these discussion. The idea of price versus value from the time a customer spends with a business.

In the diagram below, I wanted to explore the the various possibilities between the time a customer spends engaged with a a business and the price that is paid for that interaction to better visualize the difference from a good value versus a commoditized offering.

In the vertical axis, I identify price as on key attribute. The range of pricing is low to high. Let me be clear, its not underpriced or overpriced, merely the lever of pricing a customer pays. Along the horizontal axis lies time. How long is the interaction or engagement with a customer, but not how long a customer must wait to engage, only the time during engagement is being viewed.

As you may noticed, time/price can help establish the possible value being created in the eyes of the customer. If the offering is about convenience and time well saved, then it is possible that your offering is commoditized and battles for price. In comparison, if the time spent is of good quality and the value equals the price, then you’ve created a good value.

Caution arises when you believe your offering is worth more than what the customer perceives. Maybe the time is to short or not impactful enough, thus creating an offering that is seen as being over-priced. On the other hand, a business may find it can’t keep up with the demands and that there are not enough resources to maintain the level of expectations or the business actually provides greater value then priced and thus becomes under-priced in the market.

You must find a balance between price and time in order to be seen as a value worthy of the time and price paid. Be aware that time is as important resource and money when it comes to an experience offering.

If you enjoy this article or this series concept, please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear your feedback and possible ideas for upcoming 2×2 grids.

Until next we chat, this is Living on the Grid.

Living on the Grid: Type of Experience

Hello, thanks for reading “Living on the Grid” series This is the second in a series of 2×2 grids to help explain or demonstrate concepts from the world of business..

In this edition, I wanted to look at the type of experience companies stage for their customers. This is a direct adaptation from B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore’s book The Experience Economy: Work is theatre & Every Business a Stage. On this 2×2 grid, we will look at the various types of experiences a company can stage.

As you will see in the diagram below, Joe and Jim use two axises to define the various realms of an experience. Across the horizontal plane they ask about the type of engagement the customer will be involved with. Will it be a passive experience with little interaction from the customer or will it be an active participation by the customer?

In the vertical axis, they ask about the proximity of the customer to the experience. Is the customer immersed deep into the experience as if it is happening around them and they are part of the experience? Or is it more about absorbing the experience from a distance much like the movie goer who sit and watches a film.

Like most things in life, there are no hard this or that determinations, many of you may find you ride the line between two quadrants. In their book, Joe and Jim also identify these happy connections or the blending of two types. And yes, you can fall to the center where your staged experience blends all four realms. In this case, they refer to this as hitting the sweet spot. Staging an experience or experiences that engage the customer at various levels of engagement and action.

If you enjoy this article or this series concept, please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear your feedback and possible ideas for upcoming 2×2 grids.

Until next we chat, this is Living on the Grid.

Living on the Grid: Economic Value

So, recently, I had developed a set of conversation starter cards for business adapted from a diagnostic program I created in 2005 called WayPoint. The deck was a simple 2×2 formatted exercise that any business could perform. While developing the cards I created numerous adaptations until one was finally selected.

In the process of development, many of the concept were sourced from my experience working with B. Joseph Pine II and his co-authored book the Experience Economy. Some of these grids actual were very revealing about business direction and economic values, so I decided to create a series aI am calling “Living on the Grid.”

The first of the series addresses whether you are a goods provider, service delivery or an Experience stager. Follow the direction and plot your results.

I would love to hear or see what you discovered about yourself and your company.

Until then, keep striving to be a memorable engagement because all experience have impact on your customer’s lives and are inherently transformative.

Designing Happiness

Much has been said about the Experience Economy over the past 20 years. Some professionals talk about it as the next economic era and the logical progression of value. I agree with this thinking and have come to believe this is greatly due to the shift in consumer demand and the rapid change of goods. The race to have the latest is quickening. No longer is it about keeping up with the Joneses, it’s about try to keep up with ever-changing goods in order to achieve happiness. Somewhere along the line in history, consumers have been directed to buy more and newer goods in the promise that consumers can buy happiness.

Take a look at any advertisement on television, digital screen or a photo in a magazine or on a billboard. Its filled with smiling happy people holding the latest and greatest version of a thing. They all look happy that they have the newest thing. Manufacturers are changing models, product mixes and even design faster than the normal consumer can keep up. Why?

There seems to be this condition called Hedonic treadmill. The feeling of happiness after buying something. Unfortunately, that happiness fades quickly, especially when the manufacturers are producing newer versions of goods at a faster rate. This speed of change only shortens the Hedonic adaptation cycle and shortening that sense of being happy.

So what are consumers to do to overcome this treadmill? It begins by understanding the Hedonic treadmill and what actually helps create happiness in a consumer. It means looking at why buying things is not the answer to achieving happiness and looking to what does. In a recent article by Dr. Brooks on this subject, he states that experiences offer more value over things. Happiness can be achieved through experiences.

So, as designers who developing experiences for as economic offerings, it is key to focus on how the experience creates happiness in the consumer. In other words, design with happiness in mind. To achieve this, designers will need to keep in mind that experiences are personal and unique to each individual and that customization is at the heart of every experience, because each person experiences events differently and for different reasons. Also, positive experiences create lasting memories, memories people share.

Want More Customers, Stop Marketing!

Improve customer retention and enhance your bottom line by not spending money on your current marketing efforts. Stop throwing money at a low return in hopes of improving response over previous efforts. There is a better way to get a more significant ROI on marketing budgets.

Over the past few years, I had the pleasure of developing many visual concepts for B. Joseph Pine II, co-author of the Experience Economy and Infinite Possibilities. Many of the visuals that were created were from the very ideas from the books that Joe had written. The best part was—that with each drawing—I felt I was gaining a deeper understanding of every concept that Joseph Pine and James Gilmore had created. I was given a unique look into the world of modern economics, and I can tell you, there were many concepts to tackle and many sketches to create—over 500 to-date.

To carry out these 500+ illustrations, there was a lot of time spent discussing the meaning and history behind these ideas. Discussions and debates over how best to bring them visually to life. Granted, not every drawing that was created fit his presentation needs, but that’s a big part of developing a visual library around a well-known publication—conveying the concept visually.

It was during one of these discussions that Joseph presented a new concept around marketing. A concept so anti-tradition, I knew instantly that it would be controversial, and the push back from marketers and the business world would be great. The visuals needed to clearly support the idea. That idea, in his words, was ‘companies need to stop marketing, start customering.’

Stop marketing and start customering?

What is customering?

This idea is a dramatic shift in the traditional order of things. As Pine clarified, marketing was a process of pushing information out to the masses in hopes to attract customers. There’s nothing new about this process of marketing. Every company does it. It is typically the key way companies believe they need to communicate their brand message. His concept meant reversing the process of connecting with a better method called “customering.”

Much like the concept of human-centered design, customering was about seeing each customer individually and not stereotyping them into “market” groups or segments. His idea was that people want what they want—when they want it—and that each customer is unique. It is this uniqueness that marketing techniques fail to address successfully, and eventually accept low percentage returns on the effort. 

The Experience is the Marketing

Pine’s idea was to forego massive marketing campaigns and to direct your attention towards each customer you now have. Deepen the relationship through customized and personalized engagements. Stage experiences for them that are memorable and sharable. In Joseph Pine’s words “the Experience IS the Marketing.”

Every day the news reports another retailer shuttering, a bank merger, malls closing, and companies forced to close their doors because customers are no longer shopping as frequently in their stores. With the digital world expanding, more and more customers are buying online to save time and companies are faced with a surmounting dilemma of how to increase physical traffic. The solution is no longer in marketing, rather the solution is in customering—the staging of experiences in order to have customers spend time and create sharable memories.

Staging Experiences

The companies that stage experiences have a greater opportunity to capture the hearts and wallets of each customer they engage with. This engagement—or experience—also becomes the core of the stories the customer shares with their friends, family, and co-workers. Experiences create stronger brand connections that all the marketing dollars can ever produce. Experiences create customer loyalty. Again, as Pine says, ‘the Experience IS the marketing,’ and the customer becomes your brand ambassador.

If you want to learn more about the Experience Economy, staging experiences for your customers, and leveraging your marketing dollars more effectively, then give me a call.

Degression of Economic Value – Case Study Starbucks

 

Degression: a stepping or movement downward

A disclaimer. I have been a long-time “Starbuckian” and I have a minimum of 2 Grande coffee’s a week from my favorite Starbuck cafe. I enjoy the engagement of my local baristas and will continue being a patron of Starbucks in the foreseeable future.

Note of caution: Degression of economic value is driven by commoditization. When you reduce personalization and customization, you commoditize your economic offering. Progression is only achieved by making it more personal and customizable.

In the Experience Economy, Starbucks is, or was, an exemplar of how a Service provider could be an Experience stager. From the very begin of rolling out Starbucks Howard Schultz wanted to create a coffee lovers experience. As he even is quoted as saying, “Starbucks represents something beyond a cup of coffee.

By bringing the ideas of European coffee baristas and adding the elements of an experience, he created a unique and personal offering. In fact, Starbucks became the third place to gather in many people’s lives. It was much more than just a coffee shop it was a unique and authentic coffee experience. Howard Schultz believed this and even expressed this thought in a statement to the press, “People around the world, they want the authentic Starbucks experience.

Unfortunately, the fame and growth of Starbucks brings many challenges, especially from those willing to trim and standardize the custom experience. This was the beginning of the end of the Starbuck Experience as it was known. Over the years I observed many changes, some subtle some not-so subtle, but all impacting the experience.

The first noticeable shift was from the ceramic mugs to paper cups. I realize that it may have been about cost-cutting, cleanliness and consistency, but it was the first of many stones cast towards moving from the Experience to a Service model.

Next came the de-creativity and de-styling of the barista by introducing the practice of lidding the cup after creating the coffee. No more were there hearts and leaves drawn in the foam of the coffee, now there was just the plastic lid, the paper cup and the cardboard wrap. Speed became the critical factor. Move more coffee by reducing the time from purchase to acquisition.

Recently, technology has begun playing a role in this commoditization of the Starbuck Experience. Mobile apps and drive-up windows forced a control mechanism, the printed label. Quickly vanishing is the personalization and interaction of the customer and the barista for the speed and accuracy of customer’s drink pick-up. Clever hand-written names were replaced by mobile account names and printed mixes. Customers didn’t even have to engage the barista anymore. The experience is faded quickly away and been replaced by an expensive coffee service.

Finally, Starbucks has allowed the store design to seal the Starbuck Experience fate. The new cafe design actually creates the perfect assembly line production model. Four stations replace two all to improve the speed and efficiency. The first is the order station. Orders only please, no exchange of funds. Next comes the pay station. Then you verify your order with the barista, then finally, you wait at the pick-up station where you have to locate your order amongst the in-store and mobile orders that are stacking up in tiered racks. No longer is it about going beyond coffee and creating the third place. Its become about moving product as fast as possible.

Now I know there are those diehard Starbuckians like myself who would attempt to argue the issue, but one only needs to just stop, look and see that the Starbucks Experience that drew us in has been replaced by the Starbucks service.

With Howard Schultz away from the helm, an echo of warning to Starbuck’s future is not being heeded by those in control, “I am concerned about any attrition in customer traffic at Starbucks, but I don’t want to use the economy, commodity prices or consumer confidence as an excuse. We must maintain a value proposition to our customers as well as differentiate the Starbucks Experience. That is the key.

Can or will Starbuck’s regain the coffee experience it created inside the cafes excluding the Roastery? Only time will tell.

Time: The New Currency

Since the late 1950s, the history of branch banking in America has been all about being in the midst of the population. No bank could survive without being accessible in a timely fashion. Convenience became one of the prime factors for locating a branch. The focus was to reduce the time it takes to get from point A to the branch. If it was by car, banks planned around the flow of traffic. If it was a pedestrian environment, banks planned the location along the path. This was all about convenience of doing business with the bank and to ensure that the customer did not have to go out of the way. If a bank was in the path, it made sense for a customer to bank there—it was about how to better save time.

Enter technology. Now, being in the path of customers meant being readily accessible in their hands. Most transactions are performed—not in person—but online and through mobile devices. Technology quickly became the ultimate time saver. This opened the question, ‘”Where do you locate now and what should the branch become?”

The best way to address this question is to change the framework of the question. Before it was about doing something for the customer they could not do on their own, now banking needs to refocus away from saving customers time to creating places where time is well spent. The only way to do this is by going beyond services that are tailored towards doing for the customer to creating things to do with the customer. Stage an engagement that is memorable and sharable that the customer does within the branch.

Here’s the idea. Take some ‘thing’ that is usually used at a bank and create some activity around that thing. This is called “Ing the Thing”, a principle in the Experience Economy. Take a normal action of a thing and create an engaging activity around it that people come to do or watch others do. Now, exaggerate the idea to make it a spectacle.

Look at the classic piggy bank. The piggy bank is a great ‘thing’ to ‘ing’. First, make it really oversized. Now, stage an activity around the oversized piggy bank that generates interest. Maybe it squeals when people put coins in it. It becomes a photo-worthy opportunity for your visitors and becomes a great fund-raiser. “The Piggy Bank That Is Saving….” Use whatever best applies. Saving—the action word—now takes on a new meaning and purpose.

 

Cracking the Safe.

Any object or thing can be a source of an experience if you take the action related to it and leverage it as the activity. Now the branch becomes a stage for an experience and a place to engage customers and make memories. Then you change from time well saved into time well spent.

 

Need help ‘Inging the Thing’ send me an email and let’s see what we can do together.