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.

Learning From Alice

In the Experience Economy, understanding the flow is critical in the success of any staged experience. A good example of how this works is through the story of Alice in Wonderland.

Flow of Exp

In order to develop a complete experience for your customer you must address every phase of the experience from the enticement to enter through the extending of the memory.

Business Alignment

No matter if you’re a small business, large corporation or non-profit, there are connections in our purpose, communication and the places we connect in. I have written before on the importance of alignment and I am going to do again, but this time I want to break down the idea into steps.

I believe that the three key principles in all businesses are these; Culture, Brand and Place. The principles are not free-standing as some would treat them. No, all three of these are linked in an interlocking pattern. Adjust one and it affects the other two.

Take culture for the first example. What you and those around you believe about the same goal or outcome is your purpose and drives your brand message and the promise your communicate to others.

3 Thoughts on BPC 1

Your promise to others needs a place that reflects this promise and helps facilitate your interactions with others. Your brand frames what your place should be no matter if it is physical or digital. The real message here is that both your physical and digital places should reflect your brand and not merely be a trendy place or a copy of someone else’s place.

3 Thoughts on BPC 2

As I stated at the beginning of this post, all three are connected and each reacts and influences the others. The place where you interact must also support the belief and intention of your culture. It must stimulate those who enter to your belief and help become the stage of your people to communicate your message.

3 Thoughts on BPC 3

It is very important to always remember that these three principles apply to business, play and home. What you believe is reflected in how you speak and what you speak about. Your place becomes a manifestation of those ideas. It is very important to always remember, that all three principles either nourish the whole or jeopardize the possibility of growth and success.

Age of the Personal Brand

I have contemplated an idea that is growing larger. The idea of having a personal brand. And as with any brand, comes the brand mark or logo.  So my idea is this; are we truly returning to pictographic or iconographic society?

Evidence would argue that we are. More and more information in our everyday life is being identified by graphic representation and not the written word. Case in point; look to your desktop or mobile device. Very few icons include the use of text. In some cases, applications on mobile devices and desktops are using more icons and graphics to convey processes and functions. One of the obvious reasons is universal use.

Look to another rise in our society, social media brings us the increasing use of emoticons. Graphic icons to replace a set of emotional terms or statements. Technology has brought us back to a digital hieroglyphic age. Everything is becoming represented by icons. If so, then can we create icons for ourselves?

I say it already is happening. From the use of initials to clever Social Media avatar icons, we are in the age of personal branding and with personal branding comes personal logos. To give you an example here are my initials; K.M.D. I have used these all through my art life and as part of my signature. So what happens when I evolve from text to icons? what does my personal brand logo become?

KMD Brand Logo 500

A stylized expression of my initials transformed into a personal brand logo. A logo that can be used in social media as well as to identify ownership of things that belong to me.

But why do we need such icons for ourselves? In an age of graphics and speed, a personal logo does for a person what  a logo mark does for companies, creates a unique symbol that is connected to an individual who may share a name with many others. It is a way to stand out and be recognized.

My prediction is that we are about to see the boom of the personal logo trend. In our world of billions of online citizens, personal logos create that need to be unique or at least be seen as being unique. Soon small garage and bedroom businesses will appear who specialize in creating personal logos and human brands. Who knows, maybe brand consultants will help with couples wishing to join brands or couples needing to create new personal brands due to separation or loss. We have become an industry of we/me.

Is it right? Should we move further back into pictographic and iconographic languages? Maybe not, yet when has that ever stopped a generation or society from following a trend because of popularity or technologic need?

So, you be you and I’ll be me and my mark will be my proof of existence.