What is The Experience Economy?
“Goods and services are no longer enough.” Way back in 1999, this sentence was the reading line (following the book’s subtitle) that accompanied the original hardbound edition of The Experience Economy, a book written by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, describing what they believed would be the next economy to shape the way that businesses work. Today, nearly twenty years later, the line remains truer than ever before, with Pine and Gilmore’s theory standing strong in the modern-day events industry.
So, what exactly is the experience economy? To put it simply, in a world saturated with largely undifferentiated goods and services, the greatest opportunity for value creation resides in staging experiences. Through their book, Pine and Gilmore argue that businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself becomes the product — the “experience”. For event planners, this is nothing new – our business is, and always has been focused around the knowledge of just how valuable an experience can be.
But with the increase in expectations from both clients and guests, today there’s more pressure than ever on businesses like ours to create events that aren’t just ticking all the boxes: they’re creating whole new boxes, ticking those too, and blowing people away in the process. It’s no longer good enough to simply send out an email blast to a conference and expect people to arrive and participate – the arrival of The Experience Economy means that both clients and guests are looking for the kind of event that will make them want to capture, share, and remember the experience long after its over.
In 2017, Glenfiddich, the world’s most awarded single malt Scotch whisky, launched The Glenfiddich Independent venue: an exclusive, invite-only, purpose-built bar right in the heart of the city. Branded as “an experience like no other”, getting into the area involved applying for an invite online, and only receiving the address once you were accepted. Upon arriving at the entrance, guests were treated to a never-before-seen voice-tracking installation that was purpose-built for the space. After speaking into a microphone which tracked the biometric data of their voice, guests were whisked downstairs to the distinctly speakeasy-inspired area, where they were served their own unique Glenfiddich cocktail, designed specifically based on the results of the biometric voice-tracking.
While Glenfiddich’s foray into the world of voice tech might seem like a gimmick (and, if we’re honest, it pretty much was), this first-of-its-kind WhiskeyBar was about way more than just getting guests to drink expensive whisky cocktails. Through the novelty of their drink delegation process, the exclusivity of the invites, the opulent interiors, and the range of entertainers during their three-month stint, The Glenfiddich Independent WhiskeyBar created the kind of experience that kept guests tweeting, sharing, snapping, and chatting about long after they’d finished their whisky. As one critic put it, “It’s an experience you won’t want to miss and one you won’t soon forget.”
It might be nearly two decades since they first published their thoughts on The Experience Economy, but examples like Glenfiddich’s show just how relevant (and valuable) these thoughts remain today.
As event planners, our challenge now is to create experiences for both our clients and their guests that will remain memorable. It’s a challenge that we welcome every day.