A Wake Up Call to the Importance of Audience Experience

31 Jan 2012

Experience is the new currency of business wealth creation in today’s society. It’s also the universal currency of value creation in our lives.

We are all in the act of curating our life’s experiences as part of the process of living, growing and becoming. Today, people are choosier and savvier about the experiences they want to have in order to bring value into their lives and shape their identities.

For years now global organisations such as Disney, Apple and Red Bull have invested millions in developing their experience offer.  Their focus is no longer about just selling the product – a holiday, a computer, a drink - it’s about selling the ‘affective’ elements of the product. By ‘affective’ I mean a deeper connection with the product experience. This has led to a rapid commoditisation of experience and a gold rush on the practice of Experience Design.

So here’s the wake up call.

Such is our belief in the intrinsic value of the arts many of us have become complacent in proactively shaping and managing the experiences we offer; not necessarily the art itself, but those associated experiences that could create a stronger value chain around it e.g. customer service, meaning making, participation and co-creation.

Now is not the time for such complacency because we are no longer solely operating in a cultural economy, or even the leisure economy. We sit within a much larger, growing, dynamic and increasingly competitive economy … the Experience Economy, and organisations we wouldn’t ordinarily regard as ‘the competition' are competing.

Take Red Bull and its RED BULL CULTURE. Via its website, sponsored events, Live Art blog and reviews of dance, film, gaming and music Red Bull has aligned itself with grassroots, emergent, innovative cultural events.

The attached video sees Red Bull aligning itself with a groundbreaking fusion of Bach and Breakdance … not just a piece of dance, but a choreographic fusion of the ‘fugue’ form and a dance language people will understand. People will connect with the intricacies of Bach viscerally, spatially, intuitively. BRILLIANT … and take a look at how they position the PuSh Festival in relation to mainstream arts:

“While the rest of the world’s cultural capitals sleep to the strains of their zillionth production of  Swan Lake, (Vancouver) has figured out that the start of a new year is actually the perfect time to showcase fresh work by groundbreaking live artists – among them Beat Nation Live, a unique collective of Aboriginal MCs, graffers, video artists and musicians who’re using hip-hop to communicate First Nations culture.”

And their events attract interest and crowds, like the Red Bull Art of Motion 2011 which took over the Southbank, London.

Now is the time to step up to the mark and compete in a world where there is a proliferation of commercialised experiences on offer; experiences that flow from, respond to and indeed shape societal and cultural trends; experiences which connect with, appeal to and attract people.

If we don’t act we run the risk of consigning arts and culture to the margins of this vast and growing Experience Economy. The need to focus on the audience experience therefore is unequivocal. It’s no longer a case of whether we can afford to, but rather, can we afford not to.