In many corners of the world, individuals have reached the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Having essentially secured basic and psychological needs, they are well into seeking to meet higher order human needs. It is about individualization, identity definition and self-fulfilment. And fast, please.
Scott Galloway, an NYU Stern School of Business professor, made a name for himself by suggesting in ‘The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google’ that each of the companies named in the title of his book fulfil individuals through advanced technologies: the need for a god who answers individuals’ searches for the truth (Google), the desire to love and be loved (Facebook), the dealing with cravings (Amazon), and procreation facilitated by signalling devices allowing for mate selection (Apple). This would explain the four companies’ prominent role in people’s lives: They represent a pure play on the self.
The so-called ‘experience economy’ is arguably based upon the same natural evolution towards self-fulfilment. Twenty years ago already in ‘Welcome to the Experience Economy’, two strategic consultants described how the most evolved economies are witnessing a transition from selling services to selling personalized experiences through memorable events. Niketown provides ‘shoppertainment’. Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood ‘eatertainment’. Starbucks was one of the pioneers in this domain: Barista, please help me find my identity through my multiple coffee choices!
Data analytics are giving a further boost to the experience economy. Big data supports a deeper personalization offering alongside the value chain: in product manufacturing where profitable ‘mass customization’ is becoming possible thanks to progress in supply chain management and automation solutions; or in sales & marketing and aftermarket services where an individualized approach – made possible through the analysis of historical behavior patterns – can help win and retain customers not only in B2C but also in B2B businesses.
Away from products and services, experiences are even being integrated into corporate events. ‘Immerse booth experiences’ are now engineered at trade shows. The same could be considered for customer training programs or even investor days. And why not for AGMs, taking Berkshire Hathaway’s annual cult event as a glorious example? All these events could be specifically designed to provide a deep experience to participants with a view to making them desirous of being tightly associated with a corporate story which helps them define themselves.
Competition will most certainly drive the need to embed emotions and experiences in everything, everywhere and for everyone. In turn, this will require an increasingly personalized offering enabled by new technologies. A deeper market segmentation represents an attractive commercial opportunity, provided the increase in complexity inherent in a broader products and services offering can be kept under check. The trend is irresistible from both a supply and demand perspective.
Developed societies are dancing on the tip of the Maslow pyramid. It should be exciting. And yet… There is something ominous about seeing the world turn into a giant entertainment center. What is next?