Branded Experiences & Beyond

Nowadays, newlyweds create registry lists with hotels and airlines rather than with retailers, opting to fill their passports rather than their cupboards. Over 15 years ago, Joe Pine, a management advisor to Fortune 500 companies and start-ups, predicted this major shift in consumer attitudes. In his book, The Experience Economy, Pine explains how customers reward companies who design authentic experiences around their service offerings. In his corresponding TED Talk, What Consumers Want, Pine asks,

“What happens when you design a service that is so appropriate for a particular person?...You can’t help but make them go ‘wow’…we’re shifting to an experience economy, where experiences are becoming the predominant economic offering.”

Pine uses a $4 cup of Starbucks coffee as the premier example for this growing trend.  Starbucks is recognized as a leader in the branded experience business. The company has managed to differentiate itself in an extremely competitive market, an amazing feat considering that they don’t even advertise. Much of the company’s success can be attributed to the visionary leadership of CEO Howard Schutz, coupled with the branding genius of Stanley Hainsworth.  In an interview with Debbie Millman for her book, Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits, Hainsworth explains how he defines brand and the most important aspects to consider when creating a brand:

“Consumers emotionally connect with brands when the brands repeatedly provide something that the consumer wants, desires, or needs…it’s all about having a story to tell. This is what will enable you to create an experience around the brand…Examine every touchpoint and look at how you can tell one clear, consistent story.”

Successful brands such as Starbucks, Nike, Apple, and Disney make you feel like part of an exclusive club, and gaining access is relatively easy.  Ordering a Starbucks coffee may be awkward at first (one small coffee with skim milk, um, I mean one tall espresso, skinny.  Wait, how much!?) but this attention to every detail including language, employee titles and uniforms, product design, packaging, store design, even how the toilet paper is folded in the bathroom, leads to brands with irresistible appeal.