What is really an experience? Does experience simply refer to various events or emotions that emanate throughout people’s lifetime? Or is experience something related to sets of human actions and memories from time to time? The fundamental principle to understand about the nature of experience is that ‘events can be shared while experiences can not be because every experience is perceived uniquely to every individuals. As people plan an action based on observation, imaginative simulation, and imitation of the action of others, experience signify complex combination of objects, service, spaces, and information’ (Benz, 2015). By adding extra elements of senses, feelings, and emotions, events become ‘human experience’.
The critical question is then, how can brands and companies design meaningful and memorable experiences to cultivate beneficial relationship with consumers? Pine and Gilmore propose that in order to design authentic experiences, it is vital to understand and analyse the characteristics of an experience. Their studies found out that the level of connection and participation play a critical role in the development process of experience which could be categorised into the four realms as follows:
Pine and Gilmore also suggested optimal ways to design memorable experiences based on following design principles: (1) Theme the experience (2) Harmozniseze impressions with positive cues (3) Eliminate negative cues (4) Mix in memorabilia (5) Engage all five senses. The challenge of designing quality experiences is to find this ‘sweet spot’ where people’s level of participation and connection are optimally balanced. Above all, the engagement of human senses seems to be the most critical aspect to be considered as people generally forget what they hear or see, but people always remember how they feel (Angelou).
‘Experience design is the process by which brand cues are created, infused, and orchestrated as part of customer experience in order to support the brand promise, to satisfy customers needs, and to deliver a unique proposition that makes the brand desirable (Benz, 2015).’
Therefore, thorough considerations of every experience touch points in customer journey as well as the flow of (1) sensorial, (2) social, (3) cognitive, (4) emotional, and (5) behavioural brand cues of consumer perception became extremely important in the field of experience design (Pinker, 1997). Combining the studies of Peter Benz with Pinker’s theory, Kevin Farnham proposed the following equation for designing memorable experience:
[ Memorable Experience = In-depth Stimulation + Repetition ]
Built upon the numerous previous studies, Stuart Crawford on the other hands emphasises the importance of experience and relationship within context of brands where he defines that ‘branded customer experiences is ultimately the designed experience that is intentionally differentiated from other brands’ (Crawford, 2013).
The relationship between brand and experience is crucial as they define the value that brand or company represents. As it was mentioned in Crawford’s research, relationships are key outcome of experience and this non-product value chain is the strategically imperative for (1) achieving differentiation, (2) preserving competitive advantages, and (3) staying relevant for customers.
Therefore, organisations continuously need to differentiate themselves and innovate by providing relevant customer experience as people constantly seek to find meanings and values through their consumption. People now spend money to consume valuable experiences, not products and services. By combining Kevin Farnham’s theory with Stuart Crawford research, following equation for creating meaningful experience have been created:
[ Meaningful Experience = In-depth Stimulation + Repetition + Relationship ]