It has been two decades since economists introduced the idea of an emerging “experience economy” as the successor to agrarian, industrial and service eras of market evolution. In this theory, brands needed to weave their way into everyday lives and provide “moments” that were important, memorable or parts of comforting rituals. At the bricks and mortar level, companies like Build-a-Bear pioneered the idea of entertainment retail, and later the Apple Stores brilliantly demonstrated how retail experiences could seamlessly extend and amplify brand identity. Curiously, it has taken decades for more brands to embrace this idea that consumers don’t just crave “stuff”; they want experiences.
As more of the consumer journey involves scrolling and clicking even before we fulfill with physical retailers, keeping the physical contact with customers unique and engaging becomes all the more important.
At this week’s Brand Insider Summit – QSR, restaurateurs had a lot to say about the importance of experience with their customers across both digital and physical space. Among them, ironically, the brand that has been most dependent on off-premise business, Insomnia Cookies, shared one of the most imaginative in-venue experiences.
Brand Manager Nicole Geyer gave us the secret password to enter the company's hidden Cookie Lab. This “Sweet-Easy” format admits its brand loyalists literally into a hidden space in their South Philly location where they can experiment with cookie flavors in a trippy, neon-laced world. More than a cool concept that has lines forming down the block (because it’s not so secret any longer), the Lab renders genuine customer intelligence and flavor combinations even the cookie scientists at Insomnia hadn’t anticipated. It turns out that when you give the customer a pitcher of maple syrup in a cookie factory, a lot of product innovation can take place.