Segment customer experiences, not markets

For the last seven years or so, I’ve been a huge proponent of experential marketing.

It all started with The Experience Economy by Pine and Gilmore. They argue that business is a stage (much like the rest of life) and that winning companies will differentiate and profit by staging an experience that is “engaging and memorable.”

A great example of a company that is in the business of staging/selling an experience is Starbucks. Somehow, they have quietly created a system for creating an addictive Customer experience. How did they do it? Not in one fell swoop, we are just talking coffee! In my business dealings with their execs (while at Yahoo), I noticed that while many of their competitors segement markets (eg Hispanic, boomer, etc.) — Starbucks segmented the experience. Early on, when their success led to long lines, they improved the “standing in line experience” by installing Bose audio systems that played to the line, but didn’t interupt the work going on in the quiet lobby area (where they were the first to rollout WIFI back in ’02).

The secret is thinking about your Customer’s experience as the sum of several little experiences. Think of it from thought to memory. From the parking lot to the exit. A great example of how one company did this is found in the Sharp Colonoscopy Experience article published in in a publication by Pine & Gilmore. The execs at this hospital found one experience that was bad, getting a colonoscopy, and broke it down into segments. They improved in all the little things and eventually they created a colonoscopy experience so good that their clients were known to run out and tell their friends to go to Sharp “and get a colonoscopy”. If they can do it, you can too. Check out the download for a real case study primer on experential marketing in the real world.
Download sharpexperience.pdf (1187.4K)

Recommending new book: The Starbucks Experience by Joseph Michelli
Classic reading: Pour Your Heart Into It by Howard Schultz (CEO Starbucks)