BY Joe Pine

THEME the Experience


In my last post, Just a List of Stuff , I described how the use of that phrase indicated that, while you may have a good, even a terrific, list of stuff, that was all it remained. You then need to turn your insight into a framework.

One time where we saw that need was when Jim and I were writing the original The Experience Economy. We wanted to provide a set of design principles for how to create engaging experiences, and examined numerous experiences that we considered remarkable to figure out how the great experience stagers did it. We ended up with a good, and fairly tight, list of design principles, but you guessed it, it was just a list of stuff!

So this time we used a framework technique of turning the list into a mnemonic, a memory aid that, once you knew it, made it impossible to forget these five design principles:

  • Theme the experience
  • Harmonize impressions with positive cues
  • Eliminate negative cues
  • Mix in memorabilia
  • Engage all five senses

Ever since, in Chapter 3 of the book and in our work with clients, we have always encouraged companies to THEME the experience. (Interestingly, we did not reveal this mnemonic in the original book, only in the Updated Edition, just to be able to surprise people with it in our work with clients.)

Harmonizing to create a holistic whole

We ourselves discovered two notions in particular by using this mnemonic framework that we might never have otherwise: First, the concept of harmonizing impressions, the takeaways of the experience in guests’ minds. What an important idea! It’s not about throwing a bunch of things together that, even though they fit with the theme (the organizing principle of the experience), may not fit with each other. Rather, all the positive cues – including both the physical design of the experience and the theatre workers perform in it – need to be harmonized together to create a holistic whole.

Mixing in memorabilia

And the second notion is that of mixing in memorabilia. If you stage a great experience, then your guests will just naturally want to take back physical reminders of that experience, which serve to cement the experience in their minds. We often think of memorabilia, though, as something given either at the front of the experience (such as a ticket or program) or something bought at the end of the experience (such as a cap or T-shirt). But in fact as an experience stager you should consider how you can mix in such memorabilia throughout the experience, enhancing the engagement and increasing its memorability.

So remember this, if you want a cohesive experience, THEME it!

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