Experience Burnout

When was the last time you went somewhere and you didn’t have the term experience used? Grocery stores have become a “shopping experience”—so have malls and any other big box retailer trying to claw themselves into relevance. Movie theater—film experience, or if you’re fancy, “immersive film experience.” Now, even insurance companies and appliances are starting to use the term.

            It’s beginning to feel a lot like 2009, where everyone scrambled after the recession to find a way to get consumer dollars, and lo, “premium” became a thing. Premium jeans, premium socks, premium diapers, premium dollar menu items—all alongside of real premium offerings. The biggest problem premium ran into as a buzzword was it became hard to differentiate what it meant—premium couldn’t be a $50 steak and a $1 snack wrap at the same time. And now, this conundrum is hitting “experience” in the same fashion.

            Everything is an experience, from going to the bathroom in a hotel to ordering groceries through your phone, the term has become so overused and oversaturated that its almost laughable. What’s worse, is that its becoming harder and harder to distinguish the sincerity of real experiences and of those brands are pushing on us by word alone. We’re at a threshold where experience is both a positive and negative thing—sometimes we want to go all in and sometimes we just want the end result, especially if “experience” just means a higher price point the same way “premium” did.

            This is leading us to the perfect storm where fed up consumers are finally tired of everything having to be experiential, emotional events—especially when it just means something as simple as buying insurance or ordering a pizza. Please, welcome to the stage, the anti-experience. A point of differentiation where we’ve become so oversaturated with over the top that we are actively looking for something simpler.

            This behavior is no different than that years ago that spurred from an overwhelming amount of customization. Once brands realized consumers wanted to put their own touch on something, they threw the gates wide open to the point it was overwhelming. And in response, new brands emerged that focused on simplicity and less choice.

            What does this mean for experiences? Well, if the rise of the anti-experience (I cannot believe I’m using this term) is anything to go by, we may soon see brands focusing on less engagement, streamlined services and no interaction. In and out, just like that. Somewhere along the line after years of striving for convenience and accessibility, we’ve shifted gears temporarily in order to focus on moments—and brands are capitalizing on it. In the end, however, it may all lead us back to convenience. After all, I don’t need someone to tell me that my drive-thru experience is focused on personal engagement, tailored touchpoints and immersion—I just want my damn coffee so I can get to work.