Marketing Book Worth a Look: X: The Experience When Business Meets Design by Brian Solis

April 23, 2016

Millennials who have never bought a CD still line up (virtually) for concert tickets. Even though we can stream hundreds of movies straight into our living rooms, we still go to the movie theater. Six Flags tickets may be cheaper, but families still flock to Disneyworld.

All three of these examples illustrate consumers’ willingness to pay for a great experience.  A recent Eventbrite/Harris poll found that 78% of millennials would choose to spend money on experiences versus buying something. As we move to a post-physical-media society, experience is the only differentiator many brands have left.

Designing extraordinary experiences already plays a role in modern marketing. And that role is only going to expand. Take it from someone who, as far as we can tell, lives in the future: Brian Solis. Brian is a Principal Analyst for the Altimeter Group, best-selling author, and he has a finger firmly on the pulse of the buying public.

Brian brings his trademark clarity of vision to this month’s recommended reading: X: The Experience When Business Meets Design.

X is about how businesses can design an amazing experience from the ground up, baking the experience into the product itself. It’s also an example of the principles Brian sets forth—if you read it on an e-reader, you’re missing out. The physical book is a masterful piece of design. The tactile experience of reading the physical book adds an indescribable something to the overall value.

That je ne sais quoi is what Brian calls the “X factor.” X is all about how to intentionally create the X factor, to bake it into the design, regardless of what you sell.

Why Brian Wrote X

When we asked Brian what led him to the principles in X, he said, “X is very personal. It was inspired by the frustrations and aspirations I observed in others, from customer experiences to people trying to bring about change in organizations to my own trials and tribulations.”

“There are people on all sides of business who recognize that the world is changing and they either want to do something about it or they want something done about it. So I took a few steps back…and then a few more…to study root causes and to find a common set of solutions that brings everyone together.”

According to Brian, seeing past business’ assumptions about experience was a major challenge for putting the book together. “While this is going to sound wildly obvious, getting there wasn’t so logical. The one thing we all share whether we are executives, marketers, customer service specialists, HR professionals or customers, we are all human. And the one thing that binds us as humans is that we are all defined by our experiences and aspirations,” he says.

“Everyone wants great experiences in their life. In business, great experiences are the one thing that’s often missing. Customers aren’t always happy, especially those who ever have to contact customer service. Reports show consistently that customers want better experiences and executives think they’re delivering as such, yet only 8% of customers agree. That’s a pretty amazing gap.”

That perception gap extends through customers and into the workforce as well, where a lack of great experience deflates morale. Brian says, “In study after study, we learn that employees are largely unhappy, that they don’t feel they’re work contributes to a larger vision because there’s an absence of leadership. This leads to some of the lowest numbers around morale we’ve ever seen. Yet again, executives think that employee engagement and satisfaction is just fine. See the pattern?”

The solution, Brian says, is to take a realistic assessment of customer and employee experience and build from there. “I believe that if we can recognize that experiences on many fronts aren’t what we think, we can then be motivated to do something about it. We can start by learning what they are and what they aren’t so that we can see what experiences could and/or should be,” he says.  

Ultimately, the goal of X is to bring back the valued human interaction at the heart of the X Factor. Brian says, “I wanted businesses to become human again and to do that takes what I refer to in X as experience architecture. It’s the process of understanding people, recognizing what they can do vs want to or could do, and how to design products, processes and systems that bring desired experiences to life in every moment of truth.”

Why You Should Read It

“Making the complex easy isn’t easy,” says Brian, adding, “The two things marketers won’t get from this book are platitudes and over simplified recommendations. But I promise, readers (whether marketers, executives, designers, students, et al.) will get an experience from reading X. The book was designed to be an experience. It had to be. I couldn’t ask readers to see the world differently, to feel it personally, if I didn’t challenge myself to do the same. With every page, readers will learn how to design meaningful and memorable experiences that build not only better brands, but also deeper relationships over time. This changes the game and the future starts with what each reader does as they read the book.  It’ll be their companion for the foreseeable future. And in the end, it is the readers of X who become experience architects.”

Even if your brand’s physical products aren’t in immediate danger of obsolescence, the principles in X can help you design better experiences for your customers and employees. After all, what brand couldn’t use a little X factor?

Pick up your copy of X: The Experience When Business Meets Design today. And let Brian know @briansolis how you enjoyed the experience of reading it.

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