Why experience design should be the structure for everything.
Experience design brings storytelling to life in marketing and customer or guest interaction. It is a way of structuring a journey in which your target audience may participate. The experience may be small and last just a few seconds, or it can be larger than life and encompass virtually unlimited touchpoints and variations.
The reason why experience design has such a powerful impact on customers is its ability to create memories.
Let’s face it, the brutal truth of most marketing messages or interactions is the fact that they are completely forgettable. Seriously. Think about it, we get bombarded by thousands of messages every day. How many do you remember?
Let me provide some background.
There are multiple levels of effectiveness with regard to marketing messages. I am talking about the subjective, not CRM. I’m focused on how well each message resonates.
You see or hear the message, and it barely registers in your conscious mind. This is where most messages live and die. If you disagree, what are 10 marketing messages you saw today?
You see or hear a message, it gets your attention, and it does register in your mind. This is a big win, usually achieved when a message is creative, clever, entertaining or interesting. This is the kind of messaging that sells products and builds brand awareness.
You see or hear a message, it not only gets your attention and registers in your mind, but it evokes emotion in you. It may hit your funny bone or be poignant. It may speak to your hopes and dreams and desires in an engaging way. It makes it clear that the brand has empathy for you and wants to make your life better in some way. These messages win awards and build market share.
This level is usually attainable only by a true experience with a brand, where you achieve something with a product or share the experience with people you love. These “messages/experiences” are meaningful.
The highest (and least likely to attain) level is when an experience or interaction with a brand is somehow transformational. You change by learning or becoming. You are a new or renewed person.
Next, let's look at a basic outline for an experience journey.
Stage 1 is anticipation.
Good marketing messages help you imagine what life will be like if you purchase a product/service or visit a business. For example, vacation ads get me excited about going on vacation. (See one of my ads above as an example.) In this stage, you can create memorable messages, if you activate the customer’s imagination. This is where most marketing messages live, as in websites, ads, broadcast spots, videos, emails and social media posts.
Stage 2 is participation or interaction.
You buy the product/service or visit the place and experience it. In this stage there could be countless touchpoints which require thoughtful planning, whether you’re designing a piece of electronics, a home good, packaged good or vacation experience. It is certainly possible for marketers to develop ways customers can interact with a brand in an online space, the most obvious being a demo. And I believe more brands should explore ideas for remote interaction.
Stage 3 is reflection.
You think about the positive aspects of your interaction. You begin to form lasting memories about the product, service or visit.
More about being memorable.
We must trigger emotion, even if for only a few seconds. Also, it’s best to trigger this emotion in some sort of real or imagined context that the audience understands. That is, time and space. When our audience feels emotion, they need to know when and where they are (in real life or in their imagination).
Put experience design to use for improved engagement.
Using the basic structure of experience design in the real world, on a website, with social media or an advertising campaign can make an enormous difference to a marketing program. It focuses our messages on the customer's life experience, as opposed to simply touting a product/service. It requires us to be creative in our messages, rather than just stating features/benefits. And it guides customers/visitors/guests through a story – their story – where our brand helps them enhance their lives. That kind of communication can evoke emotion and create memories.
It sounds like a lot of work, and it is. It takes time, effort, strategy and creative talent, but without it, I contend that most messages will never make it out of Level 1 and into the consciousness, heart and memory of customers.