The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Stock Shot Schlock …

When Phil Spector died, I went down a rabbit hole of his life.

On that journey, I spent some time looking into the life of Lana Clarkson, the woman he murdered.

Which led me to this …

Find the perfect Lana Clarkson death photos!!!???

Seriously, what the fuck?!

I know they don’t mean to be so disrespectful.

I know it’s a standard Getty Image response to any image search – except I was looking for Lana Clarkson, not Lana Clarkson death photos – but this is what happens when you automate a process to maximise your profit potential.

And while I get Lana’s photos were topical given the death of Spector so many media outlets may be looking for them … it doesn’t make them look good. And god knows how it would make Lana’s family feel, if they saw it.

For all the talk about brand experience, it’s amazing how much bullshit is said.

Do I think experience is important? Absolutely.

Do I think experience is done well? Not that often.

For me, there is one overarching problem.

Brands would rather be OK at a lot of things than stellar at a couple.

Before people have a meltdown, let me just say this.

I am not questioning the value of experience.

Believe it or not, it is not a new concept … it has been practiced by great brands and strategists for decades.

However experience loses its impact when the goal is to be OK at everything rather than amazing at some things.

Oh I know what people are going to say …

“But every interaction should be an experience of the values of the brand”.

Yeah … maybe.

It’s great in theory but doesn’t seem to be realistic in practice.

I mean, how many brands really have achieved that?

Let me rephrase that.

How many brands that have a clear, desirable position in culture have really achieved that?

I would say it is a handful at most.

Now compare that to the brands who have focused on doing some things in a way that is exceptional and memorable?

I’ve written about the Virgin Atlantic Lounge before.

Imagine if Branson had said, “Create an experience that is commensurate with the values of the brand for the business class customer” versus, “Create a lounge people will want to miss their plane to stay in”.

Do you think they would have got to the same place?

Do you think the former would have helped drive the brands economic and repetitional success as well as the latter?

Don’t get me wrong, Virgin Atlantic have a lot to do to improve their experience.

Their booking and loyalty schemes are a fucking mess for a start. But while I appreciate I am biased, I would gladly sacrifice that for the lounge experience that makes me look forward to every trip.

An experience that is distinctively memorable, not just corporately comfortable.

The reality is there are more highly profitable, highly desirable brands who offer an inconsistent brand experience than those who offer a consistent one.

More than that, brands that offer a consistent brand experience across all touch points do not automatically become a brand people want to have in their lives.

Part of this is because their version of consistent tends to be using their name or colours or slogan everywhere.

Part of this is their version of ‘brand experience’ is the absolute opposite of what the word experience is supposed to mean.

[Seriously, can you imagine the sort of parties they would have?]

And part of this is because they want to talk to everyone which means their experience appeals to no one.

Because while it might not be fashionable, great brands are built on an idea.

Something they believe, stand for, fight for.

This is very different to ‘purpose’.

Purpose – at best – is why you do something.

Belief is how you do it.

The sacrifices you make. The choices you make. The people you focus on.

Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean great brands shouldn’t want to ‘fill the gaps’ that reside in their experience eco-system, but it does mean it should only be done if each element can be done brilliantly and distinctively.

Anyone who has read the book ‘Why I Hate Flying’ will know the vast majority of brand values are basically the same – which means the vast majority of brand experience strategy ends up being predominantly the same.

However the brands who command the most consistently vibrant cultural interest and intrigue are the one’s who have a point of view on what they do and what they believe. They have a real understanding of who they’re talking to rather than a generalised view of them. They have values that step out of the convenient blandification that so many companies love to hide behind – where the goal is to look like you care without actually doing something that shows you care. And they absolutely know it’s better to do some things that will mean everything to someone rather than lots of things that mean little to everyone.

The obsession with 360 brand experience is as flawed as the 360 media approach from a while back.

Frankly conveying the same message everywhere felt more like brainwashing than engaging.

Experience is a very important part of the strategic and creative process.

Always has and always will be.

It can make a major difference to how people feel about a brand and interact with a brand.

But like anything strategic, sacrifice is a vital part of the process.

While in theory it is nice to think every interaction will be something special and valuable, the reality is that is almost an impossible goal.

Different audiences.
Different cultures.
Different needs.
Different times.
Different budgets.
Different technologies.
Different interactions.

So anyone who thinks experience should be executed ‘down to a level that allows for mass consistency’ rather than ‘up to a standard that allows key moments to be exceptional’ are creating another layer to get in the way of making their audience give a shit.

Or said another way, you’re adding to apathy rather than taking it away.

OK, I accept that for some categories unspectacular consistency can be valuable – hospitals for example – but the reality is in the main, audiences care less about consistent brand experience than brands and their agencies do.

That doesn’t mean you can’t make them care by doing something great – like Tesla did with their ‘dog and insane’ modes for example – but you need to understand you’re playing as much to your audience standards, as yours.

Now I appreciate I’ve gone off on one, given this post was originally about a search engine response to a murdered woman’s photograph rather than brand experience … but while they’re very different in many ways, there is one thing that is the same.

They’re all focused on satisfying an audience need … and while standardised processes can help ensure we are ‘dumbing up’ with our approaches to the challenge, when that manifests into a standardised experience, then you are dumbing down the value of who you are and who you can be.

For the record Getty, this is what Lana Clarkson looked like.

There’s no ‘perfect’ photos of her death.

But there’s plenty to signify the person she was.

30 Comments so far
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This is a fantastic read. I love your argument about the “blandification” of experience. You’re right. It has such a role to play but only when it’s done to enhance the interaction not just make it consistent.

Comment by George

And that getty search result is unpleasant.

Comment by George

Yep. Repugnant.

Comment by Rob

My guess would be that it’s the result of an automated process which reacts to popular search terms and assumes every Lana search is the same. Efficiency before effectiveness.

Comment by John

We are working on it Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill

Hahaha … good. Though I know you have some even bigger issues to deal with first. Hope all is good Lee.

Comment by Rob

For a post that was supposed to be about a murder victim, this is a great post about experience strategy. I agree with you on the importance of experience strategy but you do not unlock value being mundanely consistent. Even healthcare companies don’t benefit from that and they need to be the most consistent brands of all.

When I hear someone talk about experience strategy as if it is a totally fresh concept in brand strategy, it is safe to say they definitely don’t understand experience strategy.

Comment by Bazza

I saw on another post Robert has defined it as either being a sedative or a stimulant. This is a great way to think about it.

Comment by George

That is an excellent way to think about it.

Comment by Pete

Hahahaha … that’s a great way to evaluate experience strategy ability. Probably works for any discipline to be honest.

Comment by Rob

So many interesting things to think about in this post. The biggest one for me is how few companies know who their customers really are and why they really use their product/service.

Comment by Pete

Yes. That pretty much sums it up.

Generalised understanding leads to generalised experience.

Comment by Rob

Am I correct thinking you once did some work with a fashion brand who you said approached experience strategy as psychological warfare?

Comment by Pete

Yes. Prada … for their retail experience. I’ve never seen such understanding, detail and execution of it in my life. It was as much frightening as it was inspiring. Not sure if they still adopt that model, but it was incredible and absolutely nailed who they were, who their customers were and the relationship between the two that would ensure it would maintain being a relationship.

The only other company I’ve seen with this level of insight was a Casino I worked with in Hong Kong. Unbelievable stuff … though that had the distinct scent of exploitation about it, which was intriguing and horrible at the same time.

Comment by Rob

nothing fucking makes less sense than the amount of fucking fashion brands you work with.

Comment by andy@cynic

Some people are sick.

Comment by Bazza

Phew … this post has already achieved more comments in a few hours than yesterday’s achieved in the whole day. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

Did you read yesterdays post?

Comment by Bazza

What Baz said.

Comment by Pete

Did anybody read yesterday’s post?

Comment by John

I bet your Virgin lounge experience is unique.

Comment by John

It better be.

Comment by Rob

They’ve got zero budget for everybody else.

Comment by John

mr fucking blagger.

Comment by andy@cynic

The only good thing he excels at.

Comment by DH

i fucking detest complimenting you campbell but this is good and even makes fucking sense. who knew that shit could happen?

Comment by andy@cynic

Based on the brand experiences I have, experience strategists have rubbish lives.

Comment by DH

fucking train spotters,

Comment by andy@cynic

Thank you for respecting the memory of Lana Clarkson.

Comment by Mary Bryant

thats made all the men feel theyre a piece of fucking shit. and youre right. sorry lana.

Comment by andy@cynic

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