„Shared experiences are the new marketing“ – exclusive interview with Brian Solis

Photo (c): Brian Solis.

Photo (c): Brian Solis.

Brian Solis is a thought leader in branding, communications and digital transformation. He calls himself „digital analyst, anthropologist, and futurist“. [More about Brian Solis.] In his recently published book he does away with old paradigms of customer journey and user experience: X: The Experience when Business meets DesignHow to design a meaningful customer experience in every moment of truth*. I am very happy that Brian agreed to answering a few questions exclusively for my blog. (This interview was first published im my German “PR-Doktor”.)

Question: Brian, „It is only those experiences that we connect with emotionally that we push across our social and interested graphs“ – to quote just a few of the many wise words from your book The End of Business as Usual* (2012). And you are not the only one to say so. Do you think this message has really arrived in businesses within these past years? Do owners, decision makers, PR people, really understand what it means to communicate with customers in these times of rapid change and of information overload?

Brian Solis: All experiences are emotions. They’re reactions to engagement with the company, marketing, messaging, people, touch points, etc., in every moment of truth throughout the customer lifecycle. The sum of these emotions serve as the customer experience. We take this for granted today. Instead we market, sell, louder and more agressively without improving the infrastructure to support better experiences across the board. The customer journey is comprised of both “Buy” and “Sell” sides. Unfortunately, most investments focus on the buy side.

Question: I quote again, this time from your new book: „Do you know how your customers experience your brand today? Do you know how they really feel? Do you know what they say when you’re not around?“ – How do you yourself learn about your readers, listeners your community, and interact with them? How do you know what they need and how to deliver it?

Brian Solis: Let’s take a step back. What is brand? Most executives will tell you that it’s the result of promise and architecture brought to life through creative. Then, who owns brand? Marketing. Customer experience, satisfaction, et al., well, that’s the result of how a business invests in models to do business against that brand promise, but is not held to brand stature or relevance in any metric, in any department, in every moment of truth.

THE BEST BRANDS, old or new, compete on experience whereas the brand is the net result of the experience people have and share. Too many companies however, get caught up in the products, services, NPS [Net Promoter Score], CSAT [Customer Satisfaction Index], etc.

If you define, design and standardize around desired experience, the brand becomes human, forms emotional ties, and becomes relevant now and over time, because that’s what it is designed to do. Anything else is just departmental thinking wrapped around creative marketing and lip service.

Question: Some people say that it is only a question of (rather short) time until the traditional book will disappear and pave way for more interactive forms. How do you see the future of books – and why do you still write those despite all your other ways to communicate with your audience?

Brian Solis: The book is about the importance of experience and how to design experiences. So it would have been a bit ironic and maybe a bit of arrogance and ignorance had I said something along the lines of, “Hey, I’m telling you that digital is changing everything and you have to change, but here’s a print book that looks like everything else. I don’t have to change, but you do!”

I partnered with my friends at Mekanism, an award-winning new media/advertising agency in NY and SF to help me rethink what a book could be for the modern generation.

I spent several years studying how mobile users engaged on the small screen. I also explored teenage attention spans. My goal was to reinvent the book taking into account all of these digital insights applied to paper as a way of saying that everything can be redesigned to be relevant and amazing in this digital era. With UX and UI applied to print, the whitespace of print was a blank canvas. The book itself is shaped like an iPad Air for familiarity. The traditional table of contents is gone. Some paragraphs were completely revised as experiments in visual learning. At the minimum, I had to learn how how to rewrite sentences and paragraphs to cater to today’s always on mindset while still promoting engagement, retention and shareability.

We only got a fraction of our insights into the final version of the book.

Kudos to Wiley for giving me the opportunity to do this. As you can imagine, it wasn’t just design, but the entire production process and supply chain were also affected.

Ultimately, I hope my book, the experience it delivers and the lessons/insights that I learned producing it spark innovation in print in every book, especially text books for students.

Question: You state that not only communications but brand itself „is defined by those who experience it“. Do we have to forget everything we learned about brand building and, let’s say, things like the good old ‚corporate identity’?

Brian Solis: In an era of experience, one where how they are felt and shared, count for everything, experience is the new brand, the new marketing and the new catalyst for customer relationship management. If you think about it, that means that marketing plays a more important role than ever before. It’s no longer something to solely invest in for branding, top of the funnel or First Moment of Truth (FMOT) engagement.

Experience architecture is now responsible for delivering, managing and strengthening the brand and the customer relationship in every moment of truth, throughout the customer lifecycle. From product design to advertising and marketing campaigns to sales to service and support through to loyalty and advocacy, experience design can unite, optimize and enhance every stage of the customer journey. By investing in experiences, businesses not only increase retention, but experiences that people have and share complement customer acquisition as well.

Experience is the brand. Shared experiences are the new marketing.

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