First, there was the agrarian economy — we made use of what our land had to offer. Then came the product economy, during which industrialization took away the physical work, introduced the notion of consistency, and opened up a world of choice. From there we evolved to a services economy, an answer to the empowerment of customers—our desires became increasingly sophisticated, and we wanted our desires delivered with that just-for-us feel. Then came the experience economy. Interactions were deemed to be not only transactions but events, the staging of which aimed for indelibility in the overly-saturated minds of consumers.
Today, even experiences are widely copied and commoditized. The Virgin Airlines executive lounge looks and feels much like the British Airways executive lounge. Taken away from identifiable logos, the MAC makeup artist and his Benefit Cosmetics counterpart are indistinguishable in approach and beauty prescription. To be distinguished requires a massive investment — just ask Apple, Disney and Emirates, the cool kids of the experience era.
In all categories, it’s marketers as well as consumers who have escalated the game. Pine and Gilmore, who coined the term ‘the experience economy’, explore the economic phenomenon with dimensions of participation, expectation, and connection — a framework for studying the interplay of experiences, products, and services.
We believe we’re now in a fifth stage of economic evolution: the networked economy. We know it’s here — now, armed with the why, it’s a matter of filling in the how and the what-next.November 29, 2012