Business of Emotion

What business are you in? What are you selling?

A Little History:

For the past 15 years, I have been actively involved in the Experience Economy and its principles originally expressed by Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore from their book, ‘The Experience Economy.’ Over the course of time, I have met some incredible business leaders and fascinating ambassadors of the Experience Economy. Each one has expanded my ideas of what an experience is and can be for customers and patients. I have seen the frameworks of the Experience Economy at work first hand and can share with you that they are time tested. Yet, I have always felt that there was something more, just out of range of the traditional thinking around experiences and experience design.

It wasn’t until recently have I begun to focus on another aspect of experience design. A path slightly different than my fellow experience designers and stagers. An approach for business that could create a new design principle. My approach would take me to see experiences from a whole new perspective. My method would be to stop looking for the traditional answers and solutions solely about the Experience Economy and begin searching for the questions that defined Experiences and Experience Design on a personalized level.

This idea of seeking the right questions was sparked by Hal Gregersen’s book, ‘Questions are the Answer‘. He asked the reader to use the idea of the right question to discover new opportunities and solutions rather than seeking an existing answers. A process he calls Catalytic Questioning.

This reverse thinking helped me to create a series of questions that could help others understand the economic value offering they provided based upon the initial questions they ask their customers. Where they stood in the economic progression could be defined by the initial answers sought by the frontline from the customer.

  • Commodities – ‘How much do you need?’
  • Goods – “What do you want to buy?”
  • Services – “What can we do for you?”
  • Experiences – “What would you like to do?”
  • Transformations – “What do you want to become?”

This very idea was shared in a recent book by Shareef Mahdavi called, “Beyond Bedside Manner” to help his readers understand what type of business they were in around healthcare.

There is a line that Shareef wrote in his book that would anchor the idea of a different design direction. It is a line about the one thing that most every doctor wants their patient to feel about them after a visit. The line reads, ‘If you could boil down to a single word what patients want to feel after meeting with their doctor, that word is Confidence.’ In that line were two key words that were at the very core to my thinking process.; ‘feel’ and ‘Confidence’. In these two words lies the intention and desired outcome.

Experience and Emotions:

“The happiest place on earth.”, is one of Disney’s most iconic emotional tag-lines. It communicates that you will be happy within this place, because it the happiest place in the world. That’s the outcome they are selling, happiness. Everything they do at their parks is designed around the customer/visitor being happy so they can create positive memories to share. Look at BMW’s slogan, ‘Designed for driving pleasure.’ Both of these statements promote an single emotion.

In the Experience Economy, value is created when it is customized and personalized for the customer. Each experience is unique to each person because it is internalized. This is the biggest shift from the previous economic stages. The idea of custom and personal is what makes an experience memorable.

So, my question to myself was ‘what is the most personal thing a customer can experience?’ The answer… Emotions.

Wheel of Emotions:

No, its not a game show or an app for your phone or even a new ride at your favorite theme park. The Wheel of Emotion was diagramed by Robert Plutchik in 1980 to illustrated the primary emotions of humans. The emotions that we all experience and different times.

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Wheel of Emotion

Plutchik defined in his diagram, the eight core emotions and the associated emotions that radiated out as the intensity diminished. (To avoid any confusion made by me, I’ll let you explore his thinking and his philosophy.) It is this idea of charting emotions that struck me as a possible tool for experience design. Could you design an experience based on a single or set of emotions? Design the engagement of customers around any emotion or feeling?

The answers to this question is not that simple. Emotions are very complex and the triggers to those emotions can be endless. It would require extensive knowledge of psychology to be able to even begin map and design with any type of certainty. Something any regular business would not spend the time or financial resources to create. Maybe.

What if the design criteria was not so exact or not so extensive. What if it is not about the engagement or interaction of a given emotion, rather the possible direction of outcome for the customer? As I shared about the line in Shareef Mahdavi’s book about confidence, what if you could use the emotion diagram in a another way?

Buying Tires, A Tale of Emotion:

On a particular weekend I planned to get some new tires put onto my car. The front were a bit worn further than I was comfortable with and one of the rear tires had a very slow leak. So, I scheduled a Saturday morning visit to my favorite tire shop to replace all four.

While at the shop waiting, I spent passing the time reading a new business book. Four tires would take about an hour given the number of people waiting. While reading, a young woman interrupted me to ask me what I was reading as I seemed really into the book. I shared that the book was about creating experiences for patients and customers and adding value over the competition. (my canned response.)

As with most people I meet, she looked confused. She asked, “You mean better customer experience?”

I began explaining by example. I shared with her why I drove across the city to get my tires at this particular shop. It wasn’t because they were cheaper, they weren’t. It wasn’t because they were the fastest either. It was because I trusted them like no other tire shop. The atmosphere was always friendly, the staff communicated with the customers throughout the whole process and even made suggestions of additional work that may be needed even if they didn’t do that type of work. The key reason is they made me feel safe when driving.

In that brief moment I found the key I was looking for. The question that could to be asked when designing an experience. Define the outcomes emotion you understand your customers seek. If the tire shop really wanted to elevate its offering to become an experience, it would need to leverage that feeling of safety for the driver.

The Experience Design Question:

By reflecting on experiences I have had in the past and those I am familiar with, I identified the possible right question to ask when designing an experience. That question is…

What Emotion Are You Selling?

Disney sells ‘Happiness’, Starbucks sells delight and Harley Davidson sells freedom. But what are you selling? What emotion do you want your customers to remember after they exit your place of business? What emotion dictates your designs, brand and culture with that emotional target?

This basic question of what emotion you want to sell comes with a lot of design thinking behind it. Knowing the emotion you are targeting before, during and after the engagement sets up many other variables around the need of staging, the correct props to use and even the proper employee training that goes into the ability to engage with a customer in order to achieve the emotional goal of the experience. One question can define the experience if you let it.

If you’re familiar with or use Simon Sineck’s framework of ‘Start with Why’ that he shared during a TedTalk and in publication, then focusing on the emotion draws you closer to the ‘Why’ purpose statement. Once you know the ‘Why’ of your experience, you can then begin defining the ‘How’ of the actions needed to be achieved, and eventually define the ‘What’ of tools and props will be used during the interaction.

By asking ‘What emotion do you sell?’, you frame the entirety of the experience. In this manner, I am not seeking which emotion to frame the engagement of the customer, but what emotional outcome do I want them leaving with after the interaction. It will take using other emotions to achieve the eventual outcome.

By looking at your business as selling an emotion, the goods, services and knowledge you provide are all merely the tools to a reach that emotional state. I don’t buy tires from my favorite shop because of price or the time saved, I take my car there because they know how to make me feel safe. I trust them because of their engagement with me as more than just a customer. They honestly treat me as if they truly care about my safety on the road. Everything they do and share is all about one emotion.

So ask yourself this question…

What emotion do we sell?

Can you identify a single emotion that your business embraces? Do your marketing messages reflect this emotion and does your brand promise this emotion to the customer? My suggestion, pick one and embrace what it means and how to engage customers

In addition, once you identify that single emotion, then you will begin to understand all the negative triggers and obstacles to overcome with the customer to build a deeper relationship. You will identify the spaces that are needed and the roles you employees will perform to fill so the customer can achieve that single goal. Designing with an emotion as the outcome, will change your how and what your business is in the eyes of the customer. You can take your business from a Goods or Service level to that of an Experience and add value.

There is a lot more to this thinking of an emotion as a design tool for experiences. The frameworks of the Experience Economy, Design Thinking, Behavior Science and so many others all come into play.

Let’s chat more…

#ExperienceEconomy #Designthinking #Change #Emotion #Design

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.

Beyond the Capture

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.

Showtime

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.

The Package

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.

 

 

 

 

Seeing IS Believing for Success

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.

Elixirs, Fixers and Snake Oil Mixers

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.

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.