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What Uber and Airbnb Can Teach Every Company about Branding

Brian Solis

Originally published by Brian Solis on LinkedIn: What Uber and Airbnb Can Teach Every Company about Branding

The timing of this post is interesting in that, what I’m about to share, was inspired by a series of unpleasant experiences I encountered using Uber and Airbnb and other on-demand services over the years. One of those companies is currently undergoing a brand crisis. The other is enjoying a brand renaissance. After studying the on-demand economy (previously the sharing economy), I learned aside from market changes, the idea of brand was also progressing. I recently wrote an unconventional epaper to guide the development of on-demand and traditional brands in what is becoming an increasingly democratized market. While hierarchical branding is still relevant, companies must now also consider how to also brand through people (representatives and customers) and the resulting experiences that they have, share and remember.

We live in an era of digital Darwinism where technologies and societies only continue to evolve. With it, consumer demands, expectations, preferences and values shift. At the same time, social, mobile and real-time are democratizing brands while also empowering consumers and brand representatives. As a result, brands are now defined not only by what you market but also by what people experience, share and discover. Now more than ever, branding through employee and customer experiences is what it takes to effectively compete. This means that brands must invest beyond the traditional brand style guide and now define human experiences at every level through an experience style guide.

Representative experiences impact customer experiences.

Customer experiences affect the impressions and decisions of other customers.

Shared experiences also influence representative perceptions.

And, shared experiences of every kind become linked to the brand.

What if I told you people will have experiences whether you design them or not?

I’ve been thinking a lot about experience these last several years. So much so that I focused my research and writing on understanding what experiences are, what makes them memorable, and, more so, how to design them. The result was a deep exploration of experience design, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design. But this isn’t about a book. This is a fun, different look at how on-demand companies are opening new opportunities for traditional brands (and startups) to compete through experience design.

What is experience?

Experience is one of those words that carries a lot of weight in business, but its true meaning is often elusive. Ask executives across the organization what it is and why it’s important, and you’ll get a different answer each time. If you strip away the hype and business speak, an experience, at its very essence, is an emotional reaction to an event or moment. An experience is something you feel, something you sense and interpret, and it’s measured by how you react. In business, these moments happen in every step of the customer and employee journey. Most of the time, these moments are scripted, managed, and processed as transactions. The “experience” is then measured by some value that doesn’t capture or reflect the state of individual and collective experiences in each moment. But from the customer's and also the employee's perspective, experience is everything. experience is the sum of all engagements a customer or employee has with your brand throughout their lifecycle.

This is a time for businesses to be thoughtful, even intentional, in how they consider the experiences they wish to enliven in customer and employee journeys. And more so, businesses must ensure the alignment between experiences, the brand promise, and all aspects of the customer and employee lifecycle.

Sometimes the best way to move forward is to take a step back. When it comes to experience design, I explored two of the most commonly cited examples in innovative business models … Uber and Airbnb. Doing so helps to unlock creative and critical thinking that’s often dif cult to achieve when we operate in the proverbial box that we always try to think outside of. By seeing things from an alternative perspective, we may uncover new ways to thrive in what Joseph Pine and James Gilmore described in their seminal book, the The Experience Economy.

Please download and share, "Experiences Happen in the Last Mile...Design Them: Lessons learned from Uber, Airbnb and the on-demand economy."

Brian Solis is a world renowned digital analyst at Altimeter, a Prophet company, keynote speaker, and author. His latest book, X: Where Business Meets Designexplores the future of brand and customer engagement through experience design. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn. Invite him to speak at your next event.