When the Harvard Business Review coined the ‘Experience Economy’, it signalled a period of economic transition: the move beyond the ‘Service Economy’. Services had evolved to such an extent they became increasingly indistinct from each other, and thus commoditised.
To this end, the Experience Economy is one in which service providers add value and differentiate themselves once more. They make the transition from selling services to staging and creating memorable ‘events’ for their customers.
The memory of, and association with, that experience, then becomes the product being sold. And critically, customers are willing to pay a premium for it. In this setting, brand is commercially more important than ever.
Why? Because brand strategy is a crucial business transformation tool when making the transition from a brand providing services, to selling experiences of the brand itself…and charging a premium to do so.
For example, Starbucks have managed over recent years to create an ‘experience’ around the everyday coffee. Pizza Express sells ‘conversations’ not pizzas. Manchester United, Disney, the V&A — each of these organisations have recognised the power in identifying, defining and consistently executing the brand experience they are selling, and have experienced the commercial benefits of doing so.
Regardless of which sector they occupy, organisations that have become highly successful brand experiences share some interesting traits. These organisations invariably recognise brand strategy as a boardroom issue, which can genuinely grow the bottom line and improve business value.
As such, brand strategy is no longer confined to the remit of just the Marketing Department, it is recognised as a transformation tool which is integral to the business strategy.
So at Manchester United, Disney, V&A, Starbucks and so on, conversations about business strategy will be in large part conversations about brand strategy, how the brand experience can manifest itself, and how it can influence all aspects of the business. In turn, it will drive revenue, improve business value, engage new audiences and create new revenue streams.
The Experience Economy nevertheless has to contend with other pressures, with the customers being in charge of your brand like never before. Your brand experience must be truthful to the reality, as consumers will communicate their experiences instantly and visibly over social media.
In this environment it has never been more important to reflect an accurate picture of the brand experience you offer — because the truth will out like never before.
Our advice? Invest in identifying, defining, delivering and actively maintaining your ‘true’ (and differentiating) brand. And we mean across the board, in everything you do, to a targeted audience.
Don’t market a loose promise, rather, In the world of branded experiences, coherent, accurate visions are king.