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Be the brand in the experience economy

By John R. Hendrie, Hospitality Performance
Rick Hendrie, Remarkable Branding
Plastic utensils at a fine dining establishment? How gauche!  Bright reds, Op Art, and the Rolling Stones in the background at your Spa? How disquieting!  Ratty signs, unmowed grass, poorly clipped shrubs at the entrance to your resort? Nasty!  Regular paper, four-ply toilet tissue, 60 watt bulbs at your eco property? No Green here!  Naugahide booths at your bistro? Mighty retro!  A Guest Book at your roadside diner?  Really!  Not on your life, you say. May we introduce you to a Brand misfired, to sensibilities affronted, to missed opportunities.  And, what to do about it!

The crux of being a successful brand in the Experience Economy revolves around orchestrating “Branded Moments of Truth”, not only into an exceptional exercise in service but also a seamless Brand story built by the geometric progression of staged, authentic moments. It is here, through this ever deepening, ideal relationship, that Brand loyalty is forged. 

We’re in the “feeling business”. If that sounds manipulative, it is, because Consumers have been lied to so often. The truth is that if you present yourself as you really are in all things, deliver on the functional, emotional and aspirational promises you make, and engage your customers in a personal, ongoing relationship, Brand loyalty will be your reward. It’s difficult for business people who are often driven by numbers and processes to switch gears, but that is what separates also-rans from the winners in the Experience Economy, particularly in Hospitality and Retail.

How authentic and compelling is your Story, the passion around which you created your Brand?  Have you created stimuli for the five senses which will engage your Guest?  And, most importantly, have you crafted the Experience within your property, where literally each and every aspect of your operation positively “touches” your Guest throughout their time with you.  Perhaps, an apt approach would be a “Wall to Wall” marketing assessment, where you insure that your Brand is supported throughout your Guest’s stay, moment by moment.

As pointed out above, most businesses waste the chance to Brand by sending messages that are mixed, too weak, or simply wrong.  Guests will always have a Branded Experience, whether the business tries to influence or not.  Therefore, make your stand, and transmit your crafted messages at every step of the Guest’s visit with you.


Your “Wall to Wall” exercise can be accomplished with your Management Team or even members of your business community in a broader Destination application, for each will be oriented as the ultimate Consumer, assisting you to substantiate the Experience. The assessment begins with key questions to answer when trying to determine what your “Moments of Brand Truth” are:
? Have you asked the consumer what is important to them? What they like and dislike?  How do they perceive you?
? Have you defined the WOW’s in the Experience you are selling in specific and distinctive terms?
? Have you asked yourself what is your single greatest strength?  You need a clear statement of your Values.
? Have you written out the description of the ideal buying experience from first contact to goodbye?
? Have you sought to understand what your customer is really buying when they purchase from you?
? Have you imagined what feelings you want the guest to experience every step of the way?
? Do you have a clear idea of what your employees believe?  They are your Ambassadors, after all.

From this exercise, shared with the “Wall to Wall” Team, who will assist in the Brand Audit, you will have derived what you are today, and certainly what you can be.  You have discovered what you are really selling, beyond mere product or service.  Your Story has become Branded, a good exercise in itself!

With your Brand identity at hand and shared with your Team, you begin the Tour through your property and business representative, from the very onset, of the Guest’s visit, essentially the first contact point through to the conclusion.  It could start with your web site, but certainly would include your parking lots and signage, your reception/entrance, your Lobby, restaurant, corridors, Guest Rooms, function areas, pool, and grounds - any and everything which would “touch” your Guest.  In other Retail operations, you would be looking at directionals, merchandising, Sales Associates’ conduct and presentation to name some aspects.  You might be evaluating colors, ambiance, collaterals, aromas, noise, furniture and fixtures, at minimum.  In every section, zone, or room, you are asking, “What am I selling?  What am I telling?  Are the details consistent with the Brand personality you have devised, your Story?  What is missing?  What does not translate?  What detracts?  How are the five senses being engaged?”

Of course, the ultimate benefit comes at the end of the Tour, where your “Wall to Wall” Assessment Team shares their thoughts and recommendations during a debriefing.  This is the amicable Report Card, prompting the next step for the owner/operator to design Brand Action Plans.

However daunting, your job is to create the most intense, stimulating Brand Experience you can craft.  You cannot be demonstrable enough when it comes to presenting your Brand.  However, loud does not mean vulgar, cheap or unattractive.  The loud is proud, vibrant, true, authentic and unrelenting.  A “Wall to Wall” provides the vehicle for Brand intensity.
The “Wall to Wall” assessment makes particular sense for the middle market/upper end independent, who is selling their uniqueness, as opposed to the chain operations which are representing consistency.  But, the flags can benefit, as well, for the exercise, accomplished in several locations can test the consistency of the Brand and actually surface additional enhancements.  The independent is often abounding with their signatures, which frequently are at cross purposes.  “Wall to Wall” helps them round out a truer definition of their distinction.  And, this has application to the Public Sector, as well, literally any enterprise which has contact points with an audience. Think your Immigration, Customs, Police Department, transit operations.

In conclusion, we must reiterate that Businesses need data, information to create their Customer Profile, their likes and dislikes, and their reaction to the Experience.  You simply cannot formulate any strategy until you know what the market will bear fruitfully. Also, you cannot deliver in a vacuum; your employees must be integral to the formula, where their skills and behaviors are advanced by continuing and dedicated Training and Development activities.  “Wall To Wall” invigorates all parties, leading to Brand recognition and loyalty. This is a powerful concept, whether you are a free standing business, an association, or even a Destination amalgam.  Do not lose the opportunity to make an impact!