I am proud to announce that I have co-authored an article with B. Joseph Pine II, co author of the Experience Economy, at Harvard Business Review. It is a must read about the down-falls and re-imagining of Toys-R-Us.
Over the years I have connected with some wonderful and creative graphic recorders and graphic facilitators. I have seen them work as small as a 8.5×11 and as big as 5ft x 20ft. Each with a unique talent and style. This is what makes this profession so intriguing and wonderful. Yet there is still something missing with most people in the industry…
Not Packaging Their Work
When I started recording, I set out to understand the overall purpose of the work, not just the initial capturing during a session, but the entire life cycle of the work. How were clients using what was created and how were graphic recorders working with clients to leverage the work to its best?
I challenged myself not to just dive in a work it out as I go, but to formulate a complete process and offering. One that may need working longer with a client than merely the event performance. I read online, viewed websites, looked at examples of work and scanned through many social media postings to see what others were doing and how I could shape my offering to stand out in the industry.
What I discovered and wanted to avoid was most ‘do and dash.’ What I mean by this is that they “perform” the work, yet after completed, leave the work and move on to the next assignment leaving the client to handle the graphic work.This is very much like a music band moving from venue to venue. This action was leaving a huge opportunity on the wall to expand and extend the offering.
Before the Show
The first place to start is the pre-work time with the client. Many, I found, do not work deeply enough with a client on the expectations and possible applications of what will be captured. This is the time to have the discussion with the end in mind of what will be the deliverables and how can they best be used to convey the ideas expressed and captured. it is also the time to discuss the working environment.
Pre-work and initial expectation outcome meetings are important processes and may need multiple departments to be involved. It is best to understand what the client believes is going to be happening and guide their expectations to the possibilities. This requires preparing the client for what will be created during the session and the various channels it can be distributed after the session. This also means there must be a method to capture the content cleanly and efficiently.
The next step is to ‘stage’ the performance for the best results. Typically I’ve seen and read is that the paper is hung in some inconvenient available space, usually not the best location(s) for doing the work. Poor lighting and uneven work surfaces add to the complexity. The work environment needs to be controllable and optimal engagement for the client, observers and the recorder. If all possible, I believe in a site visit if all possible or at the least ask the client where they want the work to be done that is beneficial to all parties.
During the capturing, keep the end in mind. Having an architectural background, I tend to work in zones or blocking. This is important as it allows the image to be dissected into small usable pieces for later delivery. It also helps key segments of the event organized visually.
Extending the Show
After the event, the work needs to be scanned digitally in order to do corrections, enhancements and changes. By scanning digitally, I create an archive record of the artifact that can be reprinted later if a client so wished.
Size limitations of scanner technology needed to be considered. I decided to work on the largest possible format that can be scanned at a local print service. Typically, large scanners can handle up to 36 inches wide and as long as needed. It also helps calculate cost of reproduction since they charge for square footage.
The next process is to transfer the digital scan to the computer for edits, clean-up and dissection to be used in various application that would have been discussed during the pre-work meeting. The files would also be saved at various resolutions for quick application by the client as most would not have access to image editors. Assume limited tech on the client’s behalf. Do the work for them.
Digital images are very easy to create various digital files for multiple applications such as print, digital communications, websites and even social media. Creating digital files allows me the ability to create a customized portfolio for prospects that match closely to their needs and the event.
Finally, the original artifact is rolled and placed into a sturdy and colorful shipping tube with a physical storage drive of the digital files and sent to the client. In some cases, I can also provide the same files on a cloud storage for quicker retrieval if the client request.
The Sum of It’s Parts
What I know and what I have learned before starting and now years performing is that the whole of the experience is far greater than the sum of the pieces to create the experience. Don’t fall short and don’t cut corners in order to save time or cost. What you do is your brand. Be complete and exceed what is expected.
I hope this helps others who wish to enhance what they do and help provide clarity that the fee is not just for the time doing, rather the time creating the visual experience.
During a conference that I attended a few months back, I had the opportunity to heard a speaker present on the topic of failure in business. Granted, there were other presenters who also referenced business and start-up failure, yet this one speaker said something that struck a curiosity.
I had spent a few days listening to various theories and professional point-of-views on the subject of business failure, however, all the data and conversations paled in comparison to one single statement, “The single most important reason that ventures fail is simply because others can’t see your idea.”
Being a Visual Translator and facilitator for businesses, this idea that others must see an idea was a feather in my cap. I have always believed that mapping an idea is the best method of communicating an idea to others and keeping you on track. Hearing that not seeing only reinforced my stance on using the talents of a visual translator or graphic recorder to help solidify a concept.
But that wasn’t the end of the statement. After a few more moments of letting the thought sink in, the speaker add two more points that anchored the whole of the presentation. “If you can’t see the idea, then you and others can not truly believe in that idea. And if you can’t believe in it, your chances of you or others acting on that idea fall dramatically.”
Being from the Midwest, especially from Missouri, we have an old saying about proof and belief, “Show me.” So maybe there is more truth in this idea of seeing is believing than most give credit. So I went digging for more information on the power of seeing an idea to help promote success.
In 2015, TD Bank performed a deep dive study into visuals and business. After interviewing over 1100 people and 500 small businesses, the survey results were amazing. About 67% (335) of the small business responses agree that visually mapping of a business idea helps in the plan development. Unfortunately, only 20% (67) of those business respondents actually used visual mapping or image boards in planning. Interestingly, 76% (51) of those who utilized visuals in planning indicated by response that they were successful in achieving the goals they created in those visuals.
So 76% of visual users actually were successful in achieving their vision. Imagine if 76% of those 500 small businesses were assisted by a visual translator or facilitator. The rate of failure would drop dramatically.
In summary, for your idea or strategy to have the best chance of success you must first make it visible to you and others. Once the idea is visible, then all involved can begin to believe it. If all believe it, then they can act on it to make it a success.
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.
Experiences, Experiences, Experiences!
It’s what everyone is taking about these days. Customer experiences, patient experiences, employee experiences and even user experiences. They seem to come in all shapes and sizes. The strange thing is, there appear to be so many “Experience Designers” and “Experience Specialist” it’s almost as if it’s the Wild West of the Business world.
Are they really selling you a solutions or is it a bit of snake oil wrapped up as an ‘Experience’?
The problem is that you, the business owner, can’t tell if these solutions are Experiences or marketing stunts bottled as experiences. Worse yet, it maybe the same old Great Customer Service concept renamed and repackaged as customer/patient/employee/user experience because so much has been written about the Experience Economy in the press. Be cautious about what you are being sold. Experiences, as economic offerings, are not stock solutions.
A true Experience that drives economic value must be created for each individual business. The Experience is a reflection of your brand and the brand promise. Experiences are about the customer doing something and time well spent with your business. It is not just about providing a solution about delivering a good or great customer service. The customer already expects that from you. No my friend, it’s about staging an interactive engagement that is memorable and creates economic value.
During the past few years large retailers have shuttered and closed. There has been much reported that consumers have shifted their attention away from things and to engaging experiences. One of these has been Toys-R-Us. In an attempt to save their business, TRU attempted to infuse experiences into their stores in order to drive more traffic back to the physical place. Many speculate that the digital shopping realm kept this from happening, and this maybe true to some extend, but I feel there is a larger issue.
The experiences TRU were providing had two major failures. The first was the experiences were not a reflection of their brand or the brand promise. These experiences were provided to TRU by outside vendors with the intention to drive sales for their goods. The experiences were not about TRU, but about those companies that sold to TRU.
The second failure was that the experience solution that was created were digital VR experiences where the children could see and interact with digital versions of the physical toys. Something that they could do in the privacy of their homes. They didn’t need to go to the store for the experiences. In addition, if they came to the store, those experiences would have been better if they were able to ‘play’ in the store with real toys.
TRU’s whole brand is wrapped up in the idea of toys, thus their name “Toys-R-Us”. Unfortunately, the experiences provided had nothing to do with TRU being all about toys and the things you could do with these toys. The TRU experience should have been an experience with the toys that kids could not do at home. TRU should have been the destination location for playing with toys.
So, if you are considering hiring a specialist to design an experience here are some simple things to keep in mind.
- What is the customer doing in your place they can’t do anywhere else?
- Is the experience focused on time well spent and being memorable?
- Is the experience a manifestation of your core brand promise? (is it yours?)
- And finally, is the experience customizable and personal to the customer?
True experiences are a value all to themselves. Customers are willing to pay more because of the experience. So when thinking about evolving from the Goods or Service economy model to that of Experiences, make sure the consultant or design firm understands you, your customers and what engagement reflects your brand. Avoid the Dr. Transformos of the world, because they are out there ready to sell you anything you are willing to believe in to make your business healthier.
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.
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.