Maya Angelou once said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Experiences make people feel things. It’s incumbent on us, then, to make sure that we’re producing ideas that can make people feel things.

Loyalty isn’t conjured. It’s earned. And it’s only earned once you’ve proven that you’re trustworthy. When people feel what you told them they would through an experience with you, then a relationship that goes beyond logic is a possibility. Make no mistake, that’s what business we’re in.

Experience Engineering
Which brings me to Lou Carbone. The first speaker at Fuse 2014, Carbone is the founder of a consultancy called Experience Engineering. His take is that the design of an engaging customer experience is the only way to garner this sense of loyalty and affinity, and that our unconscious mind has as much, if not more, to do with how much a customer engages. And it really begins with a seemingly simple question: What is the effect of what we do?

Moments that Matter
It’s an interesting question. If we think more about the effect we want to have (which will lead to the behavior change we require to drive growth) and less about the canned things we feel we need to convey, we can really give people the experiences they expect. More than ever, shopper-consumers are looking for moments that matter. These increasingly media savvy people are more than aware that we live in an attention economy, and they’re not giving it unless there’s truly something in it for them. So as we continue to think about our clients’ businesses, we need to make sure we’re maximizing those moments, and not just using the most easily accessible tactics.

Three Absolutes
Carbone went on to talk about what he called three absolutes for designing or “engineering” customer experiences. All three of these absolutes have particular relevance for our daily work for our clients, it seems to me.

1. From “make and sell” to “sense and respond”

Consumer products, or more clearly, the manufacturers of consumer products, have predominately operated on this “make and sell” mindset. Make a thing, sell it to folks. This idea is becoming less and less relevant, however, as consumers have become perhaps more specific in their demands since the 19th century. CPG companies, in Carbone’s estimation, need to sense the appetite of the market, and respond with products that really make a difference in their lives. It’s an active, and in the best way, reactive view of what it means to connect with consumers. And so we need to make a commitment to be far more adaptive and fleet afoot in our ideation, as well as in our service to our clients.

2. Think “customer, back”

Something that we’ve been espousing for years is the idea that the needs and wants of the customer (or in our parlance, the shopper) must be the start of the conversation, and not the end of it. It used to be enough to come up with an idea for a product, advertise it broadly using television and print (classic “push” techniques), and carry your sacks of money to the bank. But audiences are far less captive than ever before, and they require that we understand them more deeply; what they care about, how they wish to receive communications, and even how they expect for brands to behave in order to earn eyeballs. If we think about how the customer (shopper) lives and behaves in a host of different contexts or situations, then we can offer them communications that are relevant and meaningful, which leads them to an engaging experience.

3. Understand the unconscious mind

We like to believe we’re always (consciously) in control. Not true. How many times, while driving your car, have you passed through an intersection and thought to yourself “I sure hope that light was green.” It probably was. That’s because your brain moves tasks that require less energy or attention to move to the background while you work on something else. That’s the power of the unconscious mind. And as it turns out, 95% of our decisions are made with the unconscious mind, a fact Neale Martin wrote an entire book around. Emotions drive our decisions, not our capacities for rational and critical thought. This begs the question, “Why do we discount emotion so often?” Carbone believes that we’ve erroneously focused on our ability to logically and rationally weigh choices. He referenced the book “How Customers Think” by Gerald Zaltman, who wrote “…a person purchasing a high-performance sports car is not just buying a device to convey him from one place to another. In purely rational terms, the purchase may make

Mindset

little practical or economic sense. After all, speed limits prevent the driver from reaching the top speed on the speedometer, so he cannot drive a $100,000 Porsche faster than a $20,000 Ford.” Good point. So thinking more about the emotional reasons that people buy things is key to designing an experience for them that is resonant and meaningful.

Let’s sum up. Think about the effect of what you do. Give shoppers moments that matter, because attention is scarce. Sense and respond is how we need to behave now, because the market requires it. Shopper-consumer needs and wants (which are often the same thing) must be at the center of our efforts. And the unconscious mind, which is too often neglected, holds the key to our emotions, which drive our decision-making. Whew. That’s how we design experiences, folks.

Next up: the Fuse 2014 report will continue with a look at how context is more important than content. Boom.