It could be argued that the Experience Economy, first described in an article published in the Harvard Business Review in 1998 by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, is entering a distinct new phase, one that is characterised by the coming together of three broad trends: 1) constant social connectedness; 2) life-tracking and the quantified self; and 3) shifting expectations of rewards.
While these three trends are individually infiltrating and affecting various facets of our lives, the way they are con- verging is also re-shaping the way we think about experience. One example of how they are doing this can be seen in something as simple as going for a run. While the mechanics of running have not changed, technology has fundamentally re-imagined the experience of running
Going for a run is not one homogeneous experience. Rather, it is a series of experiences: five minutes in you feel optimis- tic, 15 minutes in and you’re elated, 50 minutes later and you’re trying not to be sick. However, despite these wildly varying mind-states, we only remember certain details of the experience as a whole – generally,
behavioural economics tells us, the peak or the end. So if you twist your ankle at the end of an other- wise idyllic jog, your experience will be ‘ruined’.
What technology has done,however, is allow us to break down an event into its individual moments and, in doing so, piece together a more complete picture of our experiences. Take, for example,
Nike’s We Run Paris event last year, a running race designed to be ‘the world’s first socially connected 10km course’. Participants in the event, created in partnership with Razorfish, Paris, received an RFID chip for their shoe, linked to their Facebook profile. This alerted runners’ friends when the race started and updated them on their friend’s experiences throughout. At key points on the course Nike erected two gates: one with a smiley face (‘feeling fine’), one with a sad emoticon (‘felt better’). By running through one of the two options, an update was automatically sent showing the runner’s position and how they were feeling.
The RFID chips allowed runners to break down their run into a sequence of interconnected experiences. Mind-states that would otherwise have blurred into one were friction- lessly extracted, mapped, logged and shared. Looked at together, these provided a far more holistic picture of each runner’s individual experience than would otherwise have been possible.
We no longer value our experiences so much for how they engage us per- sonally, but for the ways they connect us socially. What was once memory capital has become social currency. Rather than just being personally enriching we expect our experi- ences to furnish some further reward.
That might simply be a form of status update. Facebooking about having read Vogue, for example, may provide us with cultural cachet, and raise us in the eyes of our more pretentious peers. But as technology has started to turn our offline experiences into online data, brands are increasingly able to offer us more substantial – and, in some cases, finan- cial – return on our experience. And this, in turn, is reconfiguring the idea of the Experience Economy.
Next year we will start to see how brands try to merge our off-line experience into this new step of experiences.