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Creating meaning through experience - only for the brave?

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Founder of the European Centre for the Experience Economy and champion of the meaningful experience, part of Albert Boswijk’s mission has been to show how the marrying of two different states of experience – what he deems the primary and the secondary, the immediate sensory and emotional sensations and then the more long lasting sense of wonder and meaning – are proving essential to modern day customer journeys and adventures.

Which are the experiences that you will never forget, the one that pushed through the pure sensory and emotional and created that sense of wonder and meaning? 

Albert is less concerned with the semantics of the descriptors ‘journey’ or ‘adventure’, highlighting those businesses that, rather than merely pound us with sensory touch points, or alternatively lecture us on the wonder and meaning inherent in the experience, are driven by technological, sociological and economic change to create business models much more suited to the self-narrating power of the customer. Thus the brilliance of Car2Go or ZipCar or KickStarter or Airbnb. These interactive business models are built entirely on new-generation personal values, where the customer helps to set the experience agenda.

Albert’s change or die approach resonates with the Studio Africa project. The idea that businesses need to be fit to purpose, and that today that means being prepared to really understand the customer as a free and powerful agent. This is customer adventure personified. People use the retail and service economics to create their own real-world experiences, as facilitated by their instant and skilled access to the digital. Expectations are as brave as they are high.

Language is important: key words are used so often that they become meaningless. Such is the case with the idea of the ‘customer journey’, which unless placed in the hands of mavericks, end up becoming door-to-till lines of experience, the CEMs bereft of anything that will create meaning and wonder.

The idea of the ‘adventure’ will no doubt go the same way, but for now it stands as a fine definition for an experience that really ought to be about so much more than a brand’s verbal and visual cues. It speaks of risk, of the personal, of a brand that reflects and facilitates the experiences of real-life customers. It has deep meaning and it has real purpose. 

The key take out for us as experience practitioners is the very clear role that experience plays within businesses.  Albert’s whole idea is that you have to push on beyond pure sensory and emotional experiences. Experiences that are potentially tokenistic and leave nothing behind. Brand owners need to be brave, push for creating experiences that create meaning and wonder. For many businesses, as Albert says, this will mean really challenging their service models. So be it: such is the new world we live in. Those that don’t embrace this new experience economy will fade away.

As ever, we’d love to talk to you about how you do this. We’d love to take you on a journey, nay adventure!