Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Commercial Stories in the Experience Economy

Are your entertainment or product brands generally struggling to show the kind of strength and growth you experienced in past years?

Are your new launches mired in the catch 22 of requiring big media and big spends to break through the noise yet drop like a stone when the big spend is dialed back? (Was that the sound of profitability’s little feet scurrying out of the building?)

Do you have content you believe might be franchise worthy but feel lost as to how to determine if that is true in today’s market?

What happened to the consumer you could clearly identify, develop and market to? What happened to loyalty, brand relationship and the power of a good media campaign? Is it as depressingly simple as the annoying adage: “if its not a game its not a go!” or is something else at work here?

Welcome to the “The Experience Economy.”

If people vote with their time and money (and yes they do), to tell us what they want and how they are changing, then it is very clear that there has been:

a rapid and profound shift from being a disposable consumer and acquisition economy to one where the audience is predisposed to making and seeking meaningful experiences versus acquiring stuff.

This step-change is being shaped and led by Millennials but the rest of us are enthusiastically following suit. 

This is just as true when it comes to the decisions the audience is making about entertainment as it is about products, brands and branded services for themselves and their families.

We’ve all gotten the memo “it’s all about the story” but clearly, the results are showing that it’s not just any story, but a story that can meaningfully fulfill the entire narrative adoption chain:

Inspire, experience, badge, gather

It is the second step in the adoption chain, “experience,” that is defining the nature of how Millennial’s are finding and actualizing what is important to them. Narrative experiences are also the currency most valued in the exchange of their curated content.

This means that if we want to have commercial success with a modern narrative, than that narrative and all it’s expressions (media and product) had better enable profound and meaningful real experiences!

Definition, A narrative experience: A real life event or series of events shaped by a useful narrative the audience has adopted.

The Nike FuelBand is a terrific example of a narrative experience created by the product itself. 

The story begins with the simple statement that all your movement “counts.” You begin wearing the bandz and quickly become aware of how and when you are moving and why. You start making small decisions to move more that become a virtuous circle of gaining stats, losing weight and moving more. You proudly display the product on your wrist as you share it with your friends and begin to see yourself differently. You invite them to try it and soon you are doing things, challenging each other, together! You are inspired and you are changing your own narrative to yourself to become a newer, better version of yourself. The narrative experience of Nike Bandz transforms your life and you own it. Inspire, experience, badge and gather.

Narrative experiences are experiences of self-transformation inspired by story. That story can be entertainment, product, service and more but…it really, really, has to be USEFUL and transformative in some part of your life.

To be clear, these experiences are not a rebellion against consumerism. They are a redefinition of what we are deciding is “valuable” and therefore willing to pay for.

The new economy is not being defined by what I have, but instead is being driven by the search for who I am.

So how do we succeed in the experience economy? I’d like to put forward what I believe are key concepts to embrace to make your company, your entertainment, your product, or your service, relevant and valuable for the millennial-led experience economy.

Here’s a few general rules of thumb for developing for the experience economy that represent shifts in thought culture:

1.    The consumer isn’t a consumer. They are an audience looking for life inspiration
2.    Today, the audience doesn’t want to just consume and acquire no matter the price (Sorry Walmart). They want to adopt and experience
3.    In all things you do, think and act in terms of WHO YOU ARE INSPIRING YOUR AUDIENCE TO BECOME!
4.    Seek deep insights into what inspiration you actually have (not the one you think you have) and how the audience really wants to “use” your story. It’s those contact points that are products and services.
5.    Products must be part of, or create, true narrative experiences
6.    Your narrative is yours only until you launch it. Then it belongs to your audience. Respect their ownership or they’ll move on.