This article is by Allen Bonde, partner and principal analyst, Digital Clarity Group, and advisor, Art+Science Partners; and Loie Maxwell, partner, Art+Science Partners. She is a former Starbucks Starbucks, Target Target, and CVS creative executive.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Companies that genuinely love their customers and build emotional connections that transcend transactional relationships are a special breed. Yet, what if we could decode the formula that ties together world-class “experience” companies like Target, Starbucks, and Disney–and characterize their common traits so others can follow their playbooks?
That’s exactly what we started to do as part of a collaborative effort looking at the essence of brand experience and proposing a new way to design products, retail experiences, and marketing campaigns that build brand love and loyalty through “designed serendipity.”
What Makes a Great Experience?
Serendipity can be thought of as luck, a mysterious and fortuitous connection that happens when one least expects it. The old adage, “create your own luck,” motivates us to look at ways where marketers can create a set of circumstances that puts them at an advantage to seize opportunity when it presents itself. We believe that great brands put designed serendipity into practice by providing customers with innovative products, extraordinary service, and unique experiences when they least expect it.
When the magic is there, either envisioned by the founder and CEO, or amassed by a singular purpose reinforced by a strong company culture, the consumer feels it and wants more. The consumer often cannot articulate why they are connecting and why they are deeply engaged. Customers feel good and as long as the brand delivers on their promise, they can build that loyalty that fuels growth and profitability.
Facets of Designed Serendipity
Creating this consumer-to-brand attraction through specific traits of engagement – what we call “facets” – ultimately creates a sense of good fortune and well being for the individual. These feelings must be indelible to ensure loyalty, brand advocacy, and life long customers.
As marketers, we have the power to create the conditions to seal these connections. In fact, great brands do so everyday. What’s their secret? Our model identifies a number of core facets of designed serendipity. Here are four of them:
A New Twist: Transformation of the ordinary and expected into an innovative and evolved experience. Think of Apple Apple reinventing the look of the personal computer (and portable music player) or JetBlue and Virgin bringing style (back) to airline travel to meet and evolve the desires of their consumers. Another great example is Method home cleaning products, which identified a white space for greener, elegantly packaged (and good-smelling) products to disrupt a market virtually untouched since the commercialization of cleaning products in the late 19th century.
Shared Connection: Meaningful experiences between the brand and the individual(s) that feel personal. Think of how your barista greets you in the morning or writes your name on your cup (which is no accident). When you receive acknowledgement – no matter how big or small, that positive mutual exchange leads to a deeper connection that creates emotional stickiness to your brand. Brands like Starbucks and Fidelity are masters at building connections that drive loyalty and create a sense of comfort.
Magic: A service experience that delivers unexpected authenticity, expertise, and a genuine sense of connection that is memorable. Brand recall starts with making an impression. If this impression touches all our emotions, and recalls happy times/places/people, like Disney – what results can be magic. Cirque du Soleil is another brand that creates memorable performances and blends a new twist (stylish circus for grownups) with a unique experience that keeps audiences coming back.
Jackpot: Integrating brand “sparks” that add dimensions of newness and discovery wherein customers feel as if they are winning, without risk, for just being a customer. Think of the CVS ExtraCare loyalty program. One of the tools they use to execute this sense of “luck” on customers is the ExtraCare coupon center. When CVS decided to add programmable features that could deploy suggestive selling through coupons, they transformed a price checker into the coupon center – with the ability to “win” simply by scanning a loyalty card.
Give Love, Get Love
Designed serendipity is a transformative consumer experience that is unexpected, shared, and gives that sense of good fortune. Moreover, those brands that will win can express this sense of fortuity across all media with ingenuity, authenticity, and a seamless brand experience.
Creating your own brand luck requires the thoughtful integration of these facets into your brand strategies; the only caveat is your consumers will only continue to love you if you genuinely love them back.