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.

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.

 

Past-Present-Future of thinkAbout

Had a wonderful and thought-provoking time at this year’s thinkAbout in Cleveland. Sadly, it’s the last event after 20 years. I am proud to say I have attended 10 of the 20 gatherings. It all ended at the place it began, Cleveland, Ohio.

The event was themed around time and the #ExperienceEconomy evolution and hosted by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore. Each segment was separated by the past, present and future. Below are the visual translations.

The past was a tour from the beginning through last year’s gathering in New Orleans. Each city had a theme and usually had some tie in with the award winners. I have always imagined what city or place Joe and Jim would choose had I ever won an EXPY. Probably somewhere that embraced visual thinking or illustration. Oh well, its fun to dream.

The next day took us to the present in Jim and Joe’s wacky time machine. They shared the ideas and directions they were pondering for the next evolution of the Experience Economy. From time as currency to the Hinduization of the digital world. 32 million deities now transformed into 32 million apps on our mobile devices. When we wake to the chiming of our mobile devices it is the same as banging the pots to wake the deities. We do not worship them, we use them.

Our world view of the Experience Economy changed as Jim and Joe unveiled the next progression of thinkAbout, thinkAbout4U. A client focused gather mirroring the process of thinkAbout for Experience stagers.

We also discovered the last two award winners. For the EXPY, Carnival cruises took the prize for this year’s stager and for the EMA, Ty Koon received the honors as Experience Manager.  All in all, a great time of discussion, contemplation and investigation.

One thing I took away is that mobile technology is reigniting the lizard brain in all off us. We now react with Fight-Flight or Respond. This makes me wonder if we as humans are becoming the greatest experiment of Pavlov’s digital dog. (bing)

The second thing I took away is that Experiences should be designed to provide happiness, As goes of experience, we pay extra for that experience that makes us happy. No one pays to be made miserable, that’s called customer service.

Until next time, keep your eyes to the future and keep staging experiences that are photo-worthy.

Experience Economy: Primer

Originally posted on the ABA Bank Marketing site on May 15, 2017

Some may not know what the experience economy is about—or how it emerged. This article provides a primer on the concept of the experience economy.

In the early years of our country, agriculture and livestock were the mainstream of commerce. This period was known as the agrarian or commodities economy. People lived off the land, raised livestock, and mined the earth for resources like gold, silver, and coal.

After the agrarian era came industrial manufacturing, driven by the ability to mass-produce goods from those same commodities. Goods that had once been crafted individually could now be assembled and produced in mass quantities—increasing affordability and consistency. Banks adapted to this new goods economy by facilitating the use of currency and coin for the exchange of commodities and the regulation of cost.

As technology advanced and people began living in larger cities, a third economic model emerged—the services economy. And over time, banking shifted its focus again, no longer providing currency in exchange for silver ore or gold dust. Instead, banks became financial service providers, delivering services that members of the public cannot provide for themselves. As such, banks provide funding for homes, cars, and equipment. In addition, they offer a system of secure and regulated financial exchange in the form of checking or debit cards. They also provide safe and secure storage of documents and personal items of value. Through this model of serving consumer needs, banking increased its value to its customers—at least for a time.

And so, the pattern continues. Just as the commodities and goods economies ran their course, the service economy has also been surpassed. Over the past 20 years, there has been a growing trend by consumers to move away from spending on things or paying others to do things for them. The focus has now turned to paying for activities.

The experience economy had taken root—and it offers a greater value than all previous economies combined. A business focusing on experiences can increase the value of its offering by staging activities around the goods and services it provides.

People want to do things and are willing to pay up for that opportunity. Companies like Viking Cruises offer personalized river excursions. Car companies are creating unique driver experience centers where customers can drive high-end and exotic cars—both physically and virtually. Nike offers customers the ability to completely customize and personalize pairs of shoes for a fee. Even toy companies, like Lego, stage huge Lego conventions for the public so they can share their designs and learn about other’s creations—all designed to add value of the goods and services they offer.

What this means for banking.

So how can banks leverage this economic development? First step is to increase their value by staging activities that are not only customized, but personalized to each customer. Digital technology offers the greatest opportunity to achieve this. As described in the first article of this series on the ABA Bank Marketing site, if it’s digital, it can be customized. If something can be customized for the individual, then it has greater value for the customer and in turn, for the bank.

In addition to leveraging the digital world, banks can leverage their physical space by adapting branches to focus more on the purpose of customers’ visits. It’s no longer necessary for branches to revolve around performing basic transactions.

Think about staging activities around what your customers seek and need—and what goods and services you excel at providing. Use that knowledge to change the bank’s physical space to better stage personal experiences and unique engagements that support the brand. This will differentiate you from other banks. Make the shift from doing for the customer to doing with the customer. In the experience economy, it is all about staging engaging interactions that increase value for customers.

Signature Moments

Have you ever wondered if there was something more you could do to extend your brand or message? Well, there is.

One opportunity that is usually overlooked is at the point of when your customers are exiting your business. Add a signature moment that adds that little punch to the engagement. As a Visual Translator, I find that taking photos of attendees at the wall acting as if they are doing the work, is a great piece of memorabilia and a signature moment for them. It also gives me another chance to communicate my brand and my work through various channels the attendee wishes to use. It’s both branding and a signature moment.

Take a look at your business. When is there an opportunity to add that moment outside of the normal business transaction? Now fill it with something that is uniquely you.