We are faced with a constant pressure to make things more efficient – faster, cheaper, new & improved.
This lesson was never more evident than when I was working with a well-known confectionary brand for my agency many years ago. Our task was to redesign their chocolate bar label – and part of the brief was to totally change the packaging itself. The main reason? The client felt the existing packaging was too expensive to produce. My immediate gut reaction was, ‘No way!’. The packaging stood out – amongst a sea of boxes and wrappers, it was a beacon. And, being an avid consumer myself, I knew the wrapping was a part of the experience of enjoying the product.
After much debate with the client, we convinced them to invest first in understanding how consumers felt about their existing packaging. We sat down with consumers, talked to them and watched how they consumed the product – we quickly learned that the ritual of enjoying the chocolate began well before it was first tasted. We discovered that the package was where the experience of the product first began as well as ended. The ritual of unwrapping the package created the same anticipation as opening a gift, the package felt decadent…just like the chocolate, the package allowed them to rewrap what they didn’t get around to eating, the package was how consumers recognized the brand on shelf, and the package was the same one they grew up using. We heard their message loud and clear: “Don’t mess with my package”. They didn’t – and to this day, although the design of the wrapper has changed, the chocolate bar remains in the same packaging and has maintained its position as one of the top selling bars.
Fast forward to 3 weeks ago. I attended the closing ceremonies for Events Asia 2010 on beautiful private beach in Boracay, Philippines. After a few hours of the most amazing live entertainment I’ve ever experienced, a heap of white canvas appeared at my feet. Next thing I knew the announcer was telling us to get on our feet and bring the canvas lanterns with us to the outdoor stage by the sea. The air seemed electrified with excitement and anticipation as we listened to our instructions (which, quite frankly, seemed to go on and on). Lighting them was not going to be easy. People banded together to help each other light their wicks. It was a long process of hoping your wick would burn and waiting for your lantern to fill with hot air. I felt like a kid when I watched my husband’s lantern leave his hands and rise through the night’s sky to join the others rapidly rising above our heads. People cheered as they floated away. It was a perfect representation of the end of a great conference.
There are plenty of experiences that are faster, cheaper and newer than lighting lanterns. But after spending 2 days sitting in a conference centre, this ritualistic experience was in one word: magical. It will be something, I can say with conviction, that I will never forget. And it’s an experience that united everyone who participated.
So what rituals are you building into your events? How are you incorporating your guests into the event experience? How are you foregoing faster, cheaper, newer for powerful, meaningful and unique?
(video courtesy of Brian Slawin from Busy Events)
Join me at Events Asia 2010 in Boracay, Philippines, April 28-30th!
I’m very excited to be a part of this great event. I’ll be joining some fantastic speakers including Max Lenderman, author of Experience the Message. The event will be held at the beautiful Boracay Ecovillage Resort & Convention Center (you may recognize the name from the Miss Earth 2009 competition). For more information, visit the official event website. I hope to see you there!