– Mike Konzen, Chairman
“Today we are in an Experience Economy, with a Transformation Economy hot on its heels. You can stay in the elusory safety of past practices and keep on doing the same things you’ve always been doing – in which case, mark my words, you too will be commoditized.” – Joe Pine
We’re a learning institution. We’re always eager to challenge ourselves, adapt to evolving trends, and learn new skills. Our individual breadth of knowledge evolves every week, whether we’re brushing up on the Apollo program one day or the husbandry of northern Australian marsupials the next.
To quench this thirst for knowledge, our designers have worked together over the decades to generate new growth opportunities. Whether through Office Learning Parties, Lunch & Learns, Studio Reviews, Spot on Story, PGAV GO!, or a wide range of others, our staff are always challenging one another to learn and expand their minds. Many of these programs are mapped on the chart above, with the X-axis indicating opportunities ranging from career-centric, professional development to personal, extra-work explorations. The Y-axis indicates whether we pursue these programs together as a team, or if they are more self-directed, independent pursuits.
If the 18 programs mapped above weren’t enough, we’ve decided to add one more in 2019:
Created with the mission to foster enlightenment to other world views and possibilities, PGAV Presents endeavors to bring fascinating speakers to our office to provide insights into society, trends, and culture. The team is looking at a variety of authors, performers, artists, social change leaders, scientists, and other innovators from across the world; and this March we launched the program with esteemed author and management adviser Joe Pine.
Aside from being a world-renowned public speaker, author of several books, and consultant to Fortune 500 Companies, Mr. Pine may be best known for his co-authorship of The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage. Serving as the backbone of his 70-minute presentation to our attraction designers, the book expounds upon the evolution – and slow deterioration of – the “goods” economy, and how even the products we buy and consume are largely marketed and sold on the experiences which accompany them, not simply the aspects of the goods themselves. These often best succeed on memorable experiences that touch consumers in a personal way – experiences that spark emotions, create lasting memories, and keep customers coming back. These are the essential elements we have all worked to foster for decades in the attractions industry, and it’s a stimulating exercise to explore how the consumer goods industry is learning from destinations; and in many cases, working to “catch up.”
Reflecting on Joe’s presentation, I’d like to share four of my favorite key lessons that I felt most related to our practice, and therefore most related to the attractions industry:
The Act of Selling “Experience” is Really about Selling “Time”
According to Pine, the Experience Economy is comprised of three currencies: Money, Attention, and Time. With only 24 hours a day and seven days a week, with 40+ hours a week for work and a (healthy) eight hours a day for sleep, time is an immensely limited currency. Industry service providers and attraction managers no longer just compete with one another – they are competing with a near-endless wave of variety of time-taking opportunities, just as we explored in last year’s Destinology: The Fight for Attendance. Whether practical to-dos or digital, athletic, recreational, relaxing, individual or community events, time is a precious currency with many ways to spend it. It’s even more difficult to capture consumer attention with traditional marketing in today’s media-fragmented world. If a destination can convince a traveler to spend part of that time with them, with their undivided attention, that guest is not spending that time with anyone else. Just as designing attractions strongly relies on designing the cadence and pacing of the visitor experience, selling the experience is in fact the selling of time.
Authenticity is a Key Point of Differentiation
As life becomes filled with paid-for experiences, people naturally question what is real and what is not; and consumers time and again prefer the real – the authentic – to the manufactured or phony. PGAV first began putting terminology to this over a decade ago in our “Power of Authenticity” Destinology, and it’s been an interwoven component of our practice ever since. To be authentic is a sincere competitive advantage. Advertising and brand consultants can often be the antithesis to authenticity: advertising can exaggerate the true experience, while branding often suggests to reinvent a company’s identity. Showcase authentic experiences that represent what your company truly is, and your customers will feel the connection. You might replace some advertising spend for experience creation, which in turn can yield greater authentic shares and reviews.
The Oxymoron “Mass Customization” is Essential
When Joe walks into Starbucks, he always orders a venti non-fat six-pump no-water Tazo chai tea latte, extra-hot. For Joe, this makes the experience personal: Starbucks intentionally customizes his tea to him, and this is the DNA of economic value progression. A company’s ability to provide its portfolio of capabilities to its portfolio of customers to efficiently serve them uniquely is an essential strength. Whereas products are not instantly customizable – they’re made in advance in a factory – services are, and this evolves the service into an experience: a memorable event.
The Experience Economy is Evolving into the Transformational Economy
The next evolution in the Experience Economy is likely to be the Transformation Economy. The new exchange of currency and service will be based on companies helping consumers achieve desired outcomes through experiences, not just bearing witness to an event. This will require us to understand where customers are currently in their lives, what they want to become, and then evolve that into a business strategy to identify how to bring those two together through experiences. This philosophy has always been at the core of advertising – watch any car or athletic-wear commercial. They’re not expressly selling cars or shoes, they’re demonstrating and discussing the life one can achieve by utilizing their products. But companies hoping to thrive in the transformation economy cannot survive on promises alone, they will indeed have to execute transformational experiences. It will not be a single experience, but a set of experiences that help move audiences toward their desired outcomes, requiring companies to sustain that transformation over time to ensure it takes hold. This is a core component of our practice with destinations: helping to understand where attraction managers have been, where they are today, and where they (and their guests) hope to be tomorrow, and crafting customized pathways to help them transform and get there.
Joe’s presentation was a wonderful experience for me and for our staff, with a fresh perspective on essential insights for the attractions industry. We continue to practice these concepts in our everyday design, continuing to integrate authenticity, the value of time, and customization to create brand new Transformational Experiences for attractions.