How to Create Great Experiences and Products

“That's one of the best hotels in L.A."

Wait, what? The rooms are dated, the furnishings are spare, and most walls are bare. In fact, even the word hotel seems like a stretch — the Magic Castle is actually a converted two-story apartment complex from the 1950s, painted canary yellow.

What hotel guests remember fondly is the cherry-red phone mounted to a wall near the pool. You pick it up and someone answers, “Hello, Popsicle Hotline.” You place an order, and minutes later, a staffer wearing white gloves delivers your cherry, orange, or grape Popsicles to you at poolside. On a silver tray. For free.

There’s more. There’s a complimentary board game menu, free laundry, free snacks. I have a soft spot for hotel breakfasts, so this is right up my alley. Speaking of breakfast, magicians perform tricks three times a week at meal time!

Magic Castle Hotel

The surprise about great experiences is that they are mostly forgettable and occasionally remarkable.

We rate our experiences based on two key moments — the “peak” and the ending. This even has a name, it’s called the Peak-End rule.

1. Create peak moments

Every peak moment has one of the following elements — elevation, insight, pride and connection.

Elevation

  • Raise the stakes. Add an element of productive pressure: a competition, a game, a performance, a deadline, a public commitment.
  • Break the script. Like replacing loyalty card schemes with a surprise coffee giveaway, or Southwest’s cheeky safety announcements that have gone viral.
  • Boost sensory appeal. Turning up the volume on reality in the form of music, ambience, environment.

Insight

  • Turn explanations into experiences, and experiences into epiphanies. Show, don’t tell so audiences can come to their own conclusion.

Pride

  • Multiply the milestones en route to a goal. With a goal like “learn a new language”, there’s no destination and no intermediate levels. Creating multiple checkpoints makes it a more exciting journey, much like playing a game. It’s a forward-looking strategy since it creates moments of pride ahead, but it also surfaces milestones we’ve already met but might not have noticed.
LEVEL 1: Order a meal in Spanish.
LEVEL 2: Have a simple conversation in Spanish with a
taxi driver.
LEVEL 3: Glance at a Spanish newspaper and understand at least one headline.
LEVEL 4: Follow the action in a Spanish cartoon.
LEVEL 5: Read a kindergarten level book in Spanish.
  • Create before-and-after videos to see how far you’ve come.

4. Connection

  • An experience can become memorable and meaningful just by having others present. Connection is created in social moments.
Created by Adrien Liard

2. Fill the pits — address negative moments

Disney knows that people hate long lines so they’ve created interesting displays as a distraction, set expectations about the wait and have performers interact with guests.

Apple knows waiting for a brand new device to charge for a couple hours isn’t great so they raised the bar for unboxing experiences with charged devices ready to use.

Pits can sometimes be flipped into peaks, as we see with these two examples. The key is to not get stuck at this stage, keeping busy fixing every minor complaint and annoyance. The goal isn’t to create a complaint-free service, rather to create an extraordinary one.

There are situations which are natural defining moments and deserve our attention. They are milestones, pits and life transitions. If you can capture meaning in these instances, they will become extraordinary moments.

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