Much has been said about the importance of creating an experience around your brand. On this platform, I’ve even called experience the fifth P of Marketing, joining the traditional price, product, promotion and place as the pillars of this discipline. But there is a very obvious interpretation of experience that we often forget when talking about creating a brand encounter.
Forbes.com reports that McDonald’s has created a new team to focus on customer experience. Predominantly brought on by the impact of Covid-19, the task is to perfect customer experience. “For McDonald’s specifically, that means meeting customers where they are – increasingly at the drive-thru, at their homes, on their phones – and streamlining the three teams that have already made much headway here makes plenty of sense. The company plans to spend about $500 million on modernizing about 1,200 U.S. restaurants, for example, and that modernization includes a focus on digital, delivery and drive-thru operations.” (Read more)
What I find interesting is that there is no talk about a new menu, specials or a different Happy Meal. It is about speeding up the interaction, making getting your takeaway even more convenient and obstacle free. It is not as much about what the experience is in terms of the offering, but rather how the customer experience the offering.
Experience has become a very important brand strategy – especially for wine brands. Wine experience or wine tourism has become popular globally. Wine needed the extra turnover and exposure and wineries created a wide offering that ranges from informal family picnics to fine-dining wine pairing menus, art experiences, vineyard hikes and a magnitude of related offerings that share the passions of the brand in an experiential way. Through competitions such as the Great Wine Capitals Best of Wine Tourism, establishments are encouraged to maintain high standards. Categories focusing on service and innovation motivate wineries to be creative in what they offer and then to ensure a quality experience.
And the quality of the experience, the how of experience is what is so important. Wine tourism offers something for everyone. Some might enjoy the grandeur of historic wine estates, others the warmth of a family concern or the state of the art experience of big brands. Finding a point of difference in what experience you offer, something that hasn’t been done before, that is not on offer at another estate – even when you stay true to your brand passions – is quite the challenge. Even the most creative offering has to be something people enjoy to do and there is only a number of ways in which to package such brand experiences.
But what I take away from the McDonalds article, is that rather than adding an extra slice of cheese to the burger or building a new playpark, the point of difference can be that you get your burger quicker. For fast food, the focus is on getting it fast. Streamlining the process is of the essence and the way in which you compete with other fast food joints lies in this convenience. There are also only that many ways with a burger and a milkshake and offering specials also only work up to a point.
The same is true in wine tourism. We should perhaps ask ourselves what is the most important things our guests want from their visit and then decide how best we can give it to them. When visiting a wine farm, I think guests would like the opportunity to enjoy wine, have a good meal and spend a relaxed time with friends and family in a beautiful environment – and not even in this priority. There might be other reasons. Art exhibitions, music performances, the opportunity to get out and about in wine country might all be drawing cards. But whether you offer a picnic lunch, tapas under a tree or fine-dining on the stoep of a beautiful old manor house, chances are that another estate offers something similar nearby. I am all for innovation and finding unique and interesting ways to entice and entertain, but I think the real differentiating factor is in how special and welcome the guest felt, how delicious that food was, how smooth and friendly the service and how beautiful the surroundings.
Guest experience in today’s world also extends to the digital realm – from interactions with social media to ordering from your web shop. Once again a well-designed and beautiful site helps, but rather than the most impressive page, it is about smooth access to information, friendly interaction and accommodating services. Personalisation is a consumer trend that has come to stay – choice, the ability to tweak the offering and being able to do that hassle-free. This is true for both a physical visit to the winery and an online interaction.
This aspect of experience is so obvious that one should not be able to write a few paragraphs on it. How guests experience your offering should be just as important – if not more – than what you offer as an experience. Don’t you think?