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Content Marketing in the Age of the Experience Economy

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Content Marketing in the Age of the Experience Economy

Everything your brain processes is in the form of a story, and your brain thinks every story you hear actually happened to you

Poor millennials. They’ve been blamed for killing everything from chain restaurants and the diamond industry to golf and bars of soap. If it’s in decline, it’s their fault. The Atlantic recently mused that with the decrease in the nation’s murder rate, you could even say that the millennials are killing killing.

Once we make it past the stereotypes and scapegoating, we’re left looking in the mirror. And if we peer just a bit more closely, we might see our very own reflection supporting these supposed generational preference changes. What? Millennials prioritize experiences over products. It could be said that they’re just leading us all to our senses.

We’re firmly in the experience economy, where brands must appeal to customers’ senses. And it doesn’t matter how old we are. We don’t want to hear about bells and whistles, we want an emotional connection that allows us to feel as if we own a little piece of each company that’s earned the right to take our money.

Work is a theater and every business a stage

That’s the subtitle to a book about the experience economy, written by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore. They describe the experience economy as a new economic area in which all businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers.

The twist is that Pine and Gilmore wrote this book in 1999, nearly two decades ago. It’s safe to say their prognostications were right on the mark. But what does it mean for content creation and inbound marketing?

It’s a value thing

So says Daniel Newman, an analyst for Futurum Research who studies digital transformation. “Each action we take, whether we're on our mobile device of choice or at our desktop, has the same end game: Satisfy me,” he writes in Forbes. “Give me the answer to my search question. Give me a platform to reach out to those around me. Give me a way to share and explore.”

We no longer simply make a purchase and walk away, Newman explains. “We don't just want the goods or services, but we want an experience to sweeten the deal.”

Engagement is more than participation

But there are two types of experiences we want, and it’s important to know the difference. Newman says brands can miss the mark if they assume their customers aren’t engaged because they’re not participating. Passive consumer participation still provides a satisfied customer experience.

From a content creation perspective, we can interpret this to mean that perhaps it doesn’t mean we’re not failing to add new prospects to the sales funnel when social media posts aren’t generating significant conversations. Not everybody’s going to tell you they like (or dislike) what you’re saying – even when it’s as easy as clicking or tapping on an icon.

Connections are key

What Newman and many marketers agree to be more important and powerful is the ability to make a connection. Making the connection with prospects and customers primes them to be receptive to the experience.

Bake experiences into your brand

That’s the advice marketing executive Anne Gherini offers in a recent Inc. article. She agrees that millennials may have ignited the experience economy, but it’s a mainstream thing that’s amplified by our social media-driven lives. Gherini suggests that the public is becoming numb to digital media, but they’re developing a growing appetite for experiential moments like storefront pop-ups.

How do you bake this into your content marketing? Diamonds are no longer rare. You can have one made from the ashes of your dearly departed pet. Now there’s a story.

And the story is the key.

A Cornell University study about the relationship between wealth and happiness concluded that an experiential purchase brings more enduring happiness than a material purchase. Cue the “I told you so” chorus from your millennial friends.

These researchers have more to say on the subject. Experiences create lasting happiness because they’re more open to positive reinterpretation. They help us learn, grow, and connect with each other. Newman at Futurum Research is nodding his head.

We want experiences, but we also crave the ability to live vicariously through a story so we can benefit from the social currency of sharing it.

Go with creating the experience. As Gherini says, bake it into your brand. But don’t discount the value of using storytelling to share the experience. Even if they don’t respond, prospects and customers are pulling a piece of you into their worldview. They’re living vicariously through your education and perspective that’s helping them better understand the problem they have.

The experiential elements for successful content creation

Storytelling remains the most powerful way for humans to communicate. Something important happens in our brains when we read, hear, or watch a story. Our sensory cortex lights up like an old-fashioned analog operator’s switchboard. (You just visualized that, right?)

Then magic happens. Your brain processes the story as if you are actually experiencing what you’ve consumed.

It’s because our brains evolved using narrative thinking. Everything your brain processes is in the form of a story, and the premise of every story is cause and effect. You retain and accept what you read, watch or hear because your brain finds and links to a cause-and-effect relationship with something you’ve already experienced. An experience.

When you infuse these elements into your content – whether it’s a blog article, an explainer video or an interactive quiz – you help prospects place your value proposition into their world view. You’ve given them an experience. And they didn’t even go anywhere.

Learn how we can help you create content that will plant experiences in the minds of your prospects and customers.

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