The experience economy has been brewing for quite some time now as increasing numbers of consumers choose to spend their money on having experiences that create lasting memories rather than on buying physical things. And while this trend is ignited by a younger generation, older generations are proving quick to follow.
What is the experience economy?
Through globalization, advancements in technology, and social media, we are more connected than ever. Pair this access-enhanced awareness with financial instability – including housing prices and student loan balances that are higher than ever – and an ever-increasing retirement age. The result is that young people are trading in status symbols such as luxury vehicles and big houses for adventure and priceless experiences.
Social media fuels the fire. This phenomenon perpetuates as we consume others’ experiences and feel forced to constantly keep up. With so many people watching, and being watched in return, there’s a fear of missing out, also known as FOMO. This nudges people to show that they, too, are having unique and fun experiences.
What does this mean for brands?
In the experience economy, brand success no longer is just about the product. Success requires a much deeper and more objective understanding of the entire consumer journey, from the first touchpoint with your brand to experience-driven retention strategies.
That said, these experiences need to go beyond having Instagrammable events with free drinks and photo booths with brand logos. Nothing will make your brand irrelevant faster than creating inauthentic and expendable experiences. To be a winning brand in the experience economy, it isn’t just about knowing how to produce “fun” events—but rather it’s about being able to connect with attendees on an emotional level. It requires a deep understanding of what your customers respond to and where your brand fits into their sense of identity.
Brand identity is tangible, so it appeals to the senses. You see it, touch it, hold it, hear it, watch it move. The goal is to create experiences that tell your brand’s story in a meaningful and engaging way. Successful brands can blur the lines between advertising and the kinds of experiences that consumers are seeking.
Since we are currently in the thick of festival season, using Coachella as a best practice seems appropriate. In addition to the opportunity to see the bands, those who attend the huge music festival in the California desert are offered a whole range of experiences, including fashion shows, art shows, artisan food, dance workshops, and yoga. And from a brand identity perspective, this year Coachella tapped into a few of the core values of the Millennial generation—namely, diversity and inclusion—in a very timely and authentic way. With the theme of “every one,” Coachella organizers invited festivalgoers to co-create a festival and culture that is safe, inclusive, and fun for all.
Additionally, Amazon jumped onto the Coachella 2019 scene by providing lockers for festivalgoers. Putting convenience (another quintessential Millennial value) atop glam, Amazon Lockers allowed attendees to store festival essentials from Amazon’s curated storefront for pickup when they arrived. This propelled Amazon into the Coachella spotlight, allowing the brand to authentically enter the festival space.
Amazon brilliantly catered to the needs of festivalgoers who struggle to haul all their festival accessories. By shopping on Amazon’s Coachella shop, festivalgoers didn’t have to worry about forgetting phone chargers, feather earrings, Fujifilm instant cameras, card games, or outdoor blankets—because they could purchase all these items and more and have them shipped to an Amazon Locker on Coachella’s grounds.
The moral of the story: Your brand is a stage, so you better put on a good show.
Regan Smith is the associate director of strategy at Clean, an integrated branding agency.