Hello, Hot Stuff.
"Experience" is one of those ideas—like "authentic" or "jumbo"—that needs context. A shrimp can be jumbo. But so can a jet.
So what does "experience" mean to us in Marketing?
To understand that, let's visit Maaemo, a 3-star Michelin restaurant in Oslo, Norway.
I don't even know where to begin to describe what it was like to dine at Maaemo. (Not “eat.” Dine.) When I visited, it was one of the top 50 restaurants in the world.
No menus. No ordering. You just roll with it. And what shows up is... theater. Crazy. An adventure.
- Porridge with shaved, smoked reindeer heart (“Shaved...? Are reindeer hearts hairy?” I dad-joked the waiter. He didn't laugh.)
- Salted sheep bits
- Newborn baby artichokes
- Stinging nettles (stingers neutered)
- This postage-stamp sized thing called a liquid waffle served over mountain tea made from wild herbs found only in a place called Bøverdalen
- Still-quivering oysters and scallops, the latter plump with alcohol and lounging in a hot tub of a briny sauce, like college kids on spring break
So what's all that have to do with Marketing?
Maaemo wasn't memorably remarkable just because of what we ate (the “product”).
Nay, nay friends: It was also remarkable for the context, including what happened outside the dining room: its customer journey, its story (and how it told it), and more.
We can't get into it all here. But a few highlights:
* That unforgettable story. Maaemo translates into English as "all that is living." Its story is close-to-the-earth. Real. Raw.
One video drops Chef Esben Holmboe Bang into a cold, dark Scandinavian landscape. He's hunting a herd of mountain sheep. He's tracking them. You hear primitive drums. Or is that his heart pounding? (Or a sheep's heart?) Chef closes in.
A flash of knife. The whites of the animal's eye widened in its final moments. Chef skins the animal right there on a rocky shore. Seasons its flesh. Roasts it over a driftwood fire he himself built. (Video
Gross? Brutal? Yeah.
But honest. Memorable. You can't ignore it.
What's also memorable is the realization that Chef Bang is the real deal, worthy of respect: His kitchen doesn't exactly go to Whole Foods to source those mewling newborn artichokes, does it?
Chef probably pulls them out of the dirt.
With his teeth.
Then he licks his lips.
* Anticipation. We were to dine at Maaemo on a Wednesday. On Tuesday, Maaemo sent a confirmation email. To everyone in our party. (Everyone. This part is important.) (That's why I said it twice.)
We wouldn't be on site for another 36 hours. But the staff had already begun prepping. The kitchen would kick into high gear in the early morning, it said, when it received whatever local farmers and vendors brought to the back door.
Immediately I pictured farmers from the Village Dalenskalenskolenbøver* driving up and hauling bushels of... I don't know... embryonic eggplants? Fresh-caught trout, gills a-heaving? Turnips the size of gumballs?
*Totally made-up name
I imagined the farmers and herders and fisherpeople knocking on the kitchen door with their tanned, gnarled, permanently soiled hands. Here.
WHAT IS GONNA SHOW UP!
It was like mental ASMR.
Triggered by an email. An email.
An email as ordinary as any you might receive from almost anywhere (a restaurant, a doctor's office, a vendor)—a pedestrian appointment reminder.
But Maaemo kicked the ordinary downfield into extraordinary: It worked to educate us and powerfully conjure up anticipation in our heads. You couldn't help but wonder... at 12 noon.... at 2… at 3 PM: What showed up at the back door? What are they prepping now?
"Customer empathy" gets tossed around a lot in marketing. So does “the customer journey.” But it's ultimately about not just stepping into your customer's shoes... but also walking in them through your own business.
Mine the moments that matter to your customer.
That first touch, especially, even BEFORE you meet them. Can you make it special?
* * *
Listen, I know that you aren't a Michelin 3-star restaurant.
You don't have a nursery full of mewling newborn vegetables.
Or a fjord from which to scoop a mackerel for light pickling.
Your LinkedIn isn't full of freelance nettle foragers. (LOL)
The point worthy of upper-casing every letter is this:
Experience Is The Best Marketing.
I ate this meal 4 years ago... I still can't stop thinking and writing about it. And that is the power of experience. And that is true whether you sell software, services, solutions... or drunk teenage scallops soaking in a briny tub.
* * *
Last week I emailed an attorney's office I haven't worked with before. I needed help with some contracts and planning, and I'm leaving this intentionally vague because... legal stuff. It's not that interesting anyway.
And when the business development person called me back, I thought of Maaemo. Not because the legal biz dev person delivered an extraordinary experience. But because the experience was not that. At all.
We've all had these moments... disappointing interactions that frustrate us or drive us away. Our daily lives are full of them. It's boring to complain about, because my experience with a law firm reminds you of your experience with this bank or that dentist or procurement for a brand....
All this to say: I was a client to lose. They lost me.
* * *
What if we thought more systematically about creating consistently remarkable experiences that matter for our customers?
What if we looked more intentionally at creating moments that build anticipation and signal trust? Especially that first moment?
What if we didn't practice messaging karaoke—singing the same song everyone else sings, mimicking the same words in the same voice—but instead found new and creative and brand-voice and story approaches that reflect our true identity?
What's the cost if we don't?
* * *
A version of this story
^^ appears as the foreword to my friend Dan Gingiss's terrific new book, The Experience Maker.
It's a great resource to think though how you might create remarkable experiences for your own customers. I'm sending a copy to that law firm. My gift. (Not kidding.)
* * *
EVERYBODY WRITES TIP OF THE FORTNIGHT