The human nose can distinguish between one trillion smells, according to a publication today in Science. This unfathomable fact is perhaps even more overwhelming considering that previous estimates placed the number of discriminate odorous stimuli around 10,000 odors. In context, most humans can only differentiate 200 colors. While the article provides disruption suggesting how little we know about the nose, it also suggests the important role the sense of smell can play in a marketing context. In the scope of sensory marketing, olfactory techniques are increasingly vital to product promotion and, ultimately, competitive positioning.
Consider that 75% of emotions are triggered by smell, and that odors can be recalled with 65% accuracy after a year (versus 50% accuracy for visual stimuli after only three months). The sensory marketing consultancy Brandessence overviews the science behind smell: "When inhaled, these odor molecules travel into the nose and interact with odor receptors. The odor receptors then transmit the information to the olfactory bulb, which is located in the brain’s limbic system. The limbic system also controls memory and emotions, and is connected to the pituitary gland and hypothalamus area that controls the release of hormones that affect our appetite, nervous system, body temperature, stress levels, and concentration. Since the olfactory system is located in the brain, the sense of smell is closely tied to memory, mood, stress, and concentration." Comparing olfaction to the other senses, the marketing agency Eventige refers to a Rockefeller University study that concluded short-term memory is limited to 1% of what we touch (haptics), 2% of what we hear (audition), 5% of what we see (optics), 15% of what we taste (gustation), and 35% of what we smell (olfaction). The significance of scent should be obvious from these facts.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company defines luxury. Few organizations are as synonymous with exceptional service and experience leadership as this Marriott International subsidiary. With 87 hotels in 29 countries (and growing), The Ritz-Carlton leads the hotel industry with an unparalleled service standard.
In the enduring battle for guest loyalty, The Ritz-Carlton reminds us that experiential moments drive business in the modern hotel industry. From the frontline housekeeper providing an evening's turndown service to the C-suite executives discussing recent "Wow Stories," The Ritz-Carlton has struck gold in translating its cultural service cues (company-specific service interaction guidelines, as models for excellence) into its distinct and well-admired "Gold Standards."
Owned and memorized by each Lady and Gentlemen (employees of The Ritz-Carlton), these core values are so essential to the company's service system that they are actually required elements of the uniform, in the shape of a pocket-sized "Credo card" carried by each member of the staff around the world. While Gallup surveys and numerous other metrics are employed by the company to facilitate an organization recognized twice with the U.S. Department of Commerce's Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards (1992 and 1999), the company can attribute much of its success to the consistency of excellence generated through the steadfast compliance with its core values.
Specifically, these Gold Standards consist of six key elements:
Magic. Mystique. WOW. Among the upper echelon of the service industry, these words (and their numerous synonyms) announce legendary guest experiences. Whether its a Disney Cast Member in the Magic Kingdom requesting an autograph from a petite, preschool-aged princess or a Gentleman at the front desk of a Ritz-Carlton hotel offering a toast of champagne to arriving newlyweds, the goal of any experience creator is to build personalized engagements - and lifelong memories - as co-producers with the guests they served.
In organizations like Orlando's Walt Disney World Resort, it is easy to imagine the complexity of the operation and difficult to comprehend the degree of personalization offered to an astronomical volume of guests. Consider this in context: at Walt Disney World, more than 66,000 Cast Members holding 3,800 job classifications serve over 30 million visitors annually. The experience challenge is present across many companies around the world as they seek to drive cultures of quality service, but Disney stands out as a popularly-regarded champion. This post is the first in a series that will explore experience experts, like Disney, as we understand how each employs cultural service cues - company-specific service interaction guidelines - as models for excellence. Now, as Mickey Mouse might say, let's get on with the show!
Riding the Apple Watch bandwagon that picked up speed after the company's March 9, 2015 product announcement, wearables constitute a potentially significant disruptor of modern technology. CMO.com suggests that smart glasses, watches, and armbands yielded $3 billion in 2014 sales. The site also noted that searches for Google Glass increased by 135% over the prior year, versus 39% growth for tablet-related searches and 38% for mobile-related browsing. GlobalWebIndex conducted consumer research which corroborates these statistics with a report that states 71% of Internet users between the ages of 16 and 24 are interested in using wearable tech. While the technology primarily represents the condensation of tablet and mobile hardware into smaller packaging, wearables that increasingly implant themselves (in some cases literally) into our lives have already proven practical in the healthcare and fitness spaces as users track their physical performance using wearable devices. Data collected by these devices powerfully informs personal practices, but the output of "big data" holds equal relevance in the business landscape.
In 2013, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts announced a chain of guest experience enhancements for Walt Disney World Resort dubbed MyMagic+. Among these enhancements are My Disney Experience (a "vacation management system" that allows guests to plan and manage their trips), FastPass+ (a virtual queuing system that extends the existing FASTPASS system by enabling guests to virtually reserve attraction times, even in advance of their arrival), and Memory Maker (a supplement to the Disney PhotoPass service for on-site photography). A wearable wristband appropriately named MagicBand consolidates much of that program in a physical dimension. Despite a price tag estimated to have cost Disney between $800 million and $1 billion, the MyMagic+ program has already been touted as a technological game-changer for experiences in the theme park industry.
Since its beginning in 1923, The Walt Disney Company has captivated audiences around the world with its well-known stories. Classic films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937) and Pinocchio (1940), and Dumbo (1941) set a standard for storytelling on the silver screen that Walt Disney insisted his company continue when Disneyland first appeared on the drawing boards.
The theme park design team that Walt assembled from his film studios naturally gravitated to their storytelling roots, too, as they began translating two-dimensional movies into three-dimensional servicescapes; originally named WED Enterprises, this team later adopted the title Walt Disney Imagineering - a combination of "imagination" and "engineering" - to signify the importance of tales to the technicalities of park design. "Story is the essential organizing principle behind the design of the Disney theme parks," noted animator-turned-imagineer John Hench. "We transform a space into a story space. Every element must work together to create an identity that supports the story of that place."
Experiences are the highest form of economic progress, and service-based businesses seeking competitive advantage need to transcend their already-customized offerings through advanced personalization. That, at least, is the theory developed by scholars B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore in their 1998 Harvard Business Review article “Welcome to the Experience Economy” and in their bestselling book The Experience Economy.
The experience economy resulted from historical economic progressions stemming from value-addition in the marketplace: the agrarian economy that followed hunting and gathering was itself followed by the industrial economy and, in turn, by the service economy. Today, the service economy (based on the delivery of custom and intangible benefits to clients) precipitates the experience economy, which derives its value from the mass-personalized and staged experiences that produce temporal emotional responses (“sensations”) and memories for guests.
Enjoy this classic TED Talk from Prof. Joseph Pine as he shares his insight into this popular paradigm shift that underscores the importance of the experience-based enterprises.