Experience Economy

FCNY18 & The Campus Visit: Upright Citizens Brigade

Render followers know we're fans of the Fast Company Innovation Festival. This past October, Render's Brittney Joyce and Dani Napier spent a week in NYC traversing the city to pick up lessons from the world's most innovative brands.

A little humor can go a long way in diffusing a difficult situation. Improv is an untapped training tool to help tour guides learn to think fast on their feet and tackle inappropriate questions with a bit of lightheartedness.

When we saw that the Upright Citizens Brigade was hosting an improv class as part of FCNY18, we took a deep breath and signed up. Oof. This is very far outside of our comfort zone. Here’s what we did/learned:

  1. We did an improv exercise that started with “No, but…” in which your partner gives you a scenario (ours was we were hosting a Super Bowl party in which we debated on how to host the party and whether we should host it at all). This played out like:

    • “We could have everyone bring their own dish like a potluck!”

    • “No because we could end up with 20 bags of chips and nothing else, but we could order pizza instead.”

    • “No because not everyone likes pizza, but we could order tacos…”

  2. The next level of this exercise was “Yes, but…” Same scenario:

    • “We could have everyone bring their own dish like a potluck!”

    • “Yes, but we’d have to create and manage a sign-up list.”

    • “Yes, but we’d have to create categories for food and only put a few slots for each item.”

  3. Next level was “Yes, and…” Same scenario:

    • “We could have everyone bring their own dish like a potluck!”

    • “Yes, and we’ll create a sign-up list with slots for each dish or item!”

    • “Yes, and we’ll also order a pizza or other big dish just as a backup!”

See how things tend to flow much easier in the “Yes, and"…” scenario? When you use “but…,” it backs you and the other person into a defensive tons and stance. It invites someone to argue with you.

When parents ask a difficult question of a tour guide, we’d invite them to try “Yes, and…” instead of “No, but…” or “Yes, but…” For example, let’s take the most frequently asked question we hear:

“Is campus safe?”

“No, but…”: “Our campus is patrolled by three security forces: local police, blah blah, script, script…”

  • This is the “I don’t really know how to answer this question, BUT I do know stats and script! This response doesn’t connect nor does it answer the question. It invites argument which is why we usually hear this response followed with “Ok, but do YOU feel safe?”

“Yes, but…”: “Our campus is patrolled by three security forces blah blah blah, but I’ve never had to use any of those services..”

  • Again, translating this to: “I think campus is safe based on my experience, but I know my experience isn’t every student’s experience.”

“Yes, and…”: “I know that’s a big concern for parents these days. From my perspective, here’s what safety is like on campus, and I can introduce you to other guides so you can get different perspectives…”

  • Translation: “I know you’re concerned, I can only offer my point of view, and you’ll want to get multiple perspectives.”

TL;DR: Improv isn’t about teaching tour guides to be comedians; it can be a really useful tool in tackling difficult questions.

More from Fast Company & UCB: Leadership Lessons from Improv & Customer Service & Improv

More on “Yes, and…”: Second City’s Guide to Creativity and Collaboration

A Festive Receipt: Personalization & Humor

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We've always said: A little humor can go a long way. If you've been following our blog, you know our Senior Consultant, Brittney Joyce, has a gamer son, Cameron. As Cameron prepared to attend PAX East 2019 in Boston this March, he purchased a hot game among the board game circuit: Exploding Kittens. Owned and created by the company that produces The Oatmeal comics, it's meant to be edgy and silly.

When the package arrived, it included a personalized receipt complete with cartoon which promoted another new game made by the company, You've Got Crabs.

If a company selling thousands of games can include one of these in each package, what can you be doing to ensure personalization (and a bit of humor) for your audience?

Yes, a little on the cheeky side, but it’s authentic to the company that produces this game. To a 14-year-old in middle school Health class, it was hysterical.

Yes, a little on the cheeky side, but it’s authentic to the company that produces this game. To a 14-year-old in middle school Health class, it was hysterical.

Authenticity & Airport Seating

Render's Jeff Kallay recently visited our client Monmouth College (IL). While flying out of the Quad Cities/Moline, IL airport, he noticed this new seating option.

John Deere is headquartered in Moline, and he loved how the airport embraced the authenticity of their area and celebrated Moline's largest employer.

We love the #DeereSighting hashtag.

We love the #DeereSighting hashtag.

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In your visitor center, instead of the usual furniture, what if you brought in seating that emulated your sports arena, library, chapel, or other popular campus spots?

FCNY18 & The Campus Visit: DryBar

Alli Webb and Brittney Joyce: FCNY16

Alli Webb and Brittney Joyce: FCNY16

Render followers know we're fans of the Fast Company Innovation Festival. This past October, Render's Brittney Joyce and Dani Napier spent a week in NYC traversing the city to pick up lessons from the world's most innovative brands.

We often use DryBar as an example of the evolution of The Experience Economy: getting people to pay for something they didn’t know they needed AND being able to charge a premium price for that product/service.

What has Co-Founder Alli Webb learned among the way? Here are a couple lessons we thought were useful for you & the campus visit:

Brittney Joyce: Mid-blowout with hair that was 90% dry shampoo.

Brittney Joyce: Mid-blowout with hair that was 90% dry shampoo.

  1. There are a lot of copycat studios that have cropped up over the years offering blowouts. Alli said she used to be obsessed about what those studios were doing and how much they emulated the experience staged at DryBar. After a while, she stopped caring. She realized that although they offer a similar service, they’ll never be able to fully understand the thought and intentionality within the DryBar experience (ie: how they hang mirrors on the walls directly behind chairs for a customer’s turnaround reveal).

  2. The people of DryBar are everything to their experience, and hiring the right person is critical. How does Alli ensure the people they hire are the right people? She does a “cultural interview” where managers just hang out with candidates for a while and talk. If the candidate seems friendly and cool, then they get to blowout someone’s hair.

What does this mean for the visit?

  1. Stop being obsessed with the school down the road or your major competitor. We often share best practices with our clients, but no one approach to the campus visit is right for all institutions. You have to be true to your culture and design a visit that authentically reveals your campus DNA.

  2. Usually campus visit coordinators or staff members hire students, and we often find that staff members hire students who share their own personality traits (aka, we hire people just like us). Involve as many people in the hiring process to ensure you’re getting the right person for the job, and think about ways to include more rounds in a selection process other than an interview.

TL;DR: Just be you and think psychographics (not demographics) when hiring or selecting tour guides.

DryBar Co-Founder Alli Webb dishing all things authenticity.

DryBar Co-Founder Alli Webb dishing all things authenticity.


FCNY18 & The Campus Visit: Nordstrom Men's Store

Render followers know we're fans of the Fast Company Innovation Festival. Last October, Render's Brittney Joyce and Dani Napier spent a week in NYC traversing the city to pick up lessons from the world's most innovative brands.

In the coming months, we'll be publishing a series of blog posts with lessons from #FCFestival. What did we learn that can be applied to the campus visit? First up, the new Nordstrom's Men Store!

Standing tall on W 57th Street, Nordstrom has opened it's first store dedicated to providing men a tailored (pun intended) shopping experience.

Based on their research, priorities for this store included:

  • Providing opportunities for customization and personalization
  • Making convenience and efficiency a priority
  • Elevating services to high-end amenities

Sound familiar? These are all priorities we see in research about the campus visit and anecdotal observations of family behavior during visits.

How did Nordstrom translate these priorities into a new physical space?

  • Personalization/Customization
    • Levi's Tailor Shop
    • Build-your-own-suit experience
    • Complimentary personal shopping
  • Convenience & efficiency
    • Express return (customers can process their own returns at a kiosk inside the main doors)
    • Store-to-door (free same-day delivery in NYC for online orders)
  • Elevating services
    • Shoe shine bar (serves cocktails, food)
    • Full cafe and bar in clothing area (they'll bring you a cocktail to the dressing room)
    • Tailoring services
    • Barber, shaving "shop"

TL;DR: Nordstrom is elevating on-demand services and making the shopping experience all about YOU.

Translation: What can you be doing on a daily basis that allows guest to customize their campus visit experience and make it all about them? And when they do have a request on the day of their visit, are you able to make it happen?

Uncomplicated Visitor Announcements: Butcher Paper

Can we pause to appreciate this Snickerdoodle, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, and vanilla ice cream sandwich? Drool.

Can we pause to appreciate this Snickerdoodle, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, and vanilla ice cream sandwich? Drool.

Like we always say: Everyone's favorite word is their own name. It's one of the reasons we love seeing visitors welcomed by name the day of their visit in your welcome center.

Campus visit folks welcome visitors by name in a variety of ways: monitors with a digital slideshow, dry erase boards, chalkboards, printed posters... you name it, we've seen it (and love them all equally).

But on a recent trip to The Cookie Monstah in Danvers, Massachusetts, we stumbled upon this great butcher paper installation used to display daily specials. Huh. What a great idea. It's easy to install, easy to maintain, is a fun/creative way to display names, can be used for other announcements, and more.

Butcher paper. Give it a try.

Even more in love with the branded painters tape securing the bottom to the wall.

Even more in love with the branded painters tape securing the bottom to the wall.

Three Cheers for Chalkboards

Why do displays for your Welcome Centers have to be overly designed, stuffy, and outdated the moment you print them?

Three cheers for our clients who've chosen to install chalkboards and use them in fun, purposeful ways in their daily campus visits! They're modern, timeless, and, again, FUN.

(Also included: a few of our most recent favorite chalkboards in our experience excursions!)

Lessons from Vacation: Washington D.C.

We've written in the past about how welcome centers are moving toward more static displays and the rise of sidewalk graphics for wayfinding/storytelling.

While visiting Washington, D.C. for a Spring Break trip, many examples were found of both. Check out the photos and captions below for inspiration toward a better visitor experience. 

The Newseum: floor decals at the East/West Berlin Wall exhibit. 

The Newseum: floor decals at the East/West Berlin Wall exhibit. 

The Newseum: using static displays to engage visitors in conversation. 

The Newseum: using static displays to engage visitors in conversation. 

Ford's Theatre: static display engaging visitors in conversation.

Ford's Theatre: static display engaging visitors in conversation.

Experience Economy: Yeti

You know the Render Experiences team is all about the experience. And The Experience Economy (our manifesto) tells us you can charge a premium price for a product or service as long as you're staging an experience.

During our recent travels, we were able to experience the new Yeti flagship store in Austin, TX, which is thriving due in large part to their incorporation of many tenets of The Experience Economy.

Three things you should know about this space:

  1. It is the only place (physical or online) in the country where you can customize your Yeti cooler and products with your choice of buckles and latches.

  2. They don't just want to sell you a cooler but also the lifestyle of owning one of their coolers (the bar, cornhole, boat, etc).

  3. In a world where technology is difficult to manage and maintain, they threw people at their customers. Lots of staff around to help chat with you about their products and help you customize your experience.

Biggest missed opportunity: They didn't set expectations about how to best experience the store or why we should explore all the experiential pieces.

Memory we'll have forever: We overheard them tell a customer from Illinois that if he were to customize his Yeti cooler, he'd only be 1 out of about 20 people in the entire state of Illinois to own a customized Yeti. Talk about captializing on the values of discovery and provenance!

Marketing While Caffeinating: Coffee Sleeves

Every Render team member agrees: Coffee is important. Crucial, in fact. We pay a lot of attention to our coffee, especially when it is served in a standout cup or environment. 

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More and more, we're seeing the introduction of custom coffee sleeves. It's a great way to get a message out to guests. Use an everyday item that will surely be seen by lots of folks. You want your morning caffeine? You'll need to take a glance at our message first. 

Two examples: 

First, our Associate Dani Napier spotted custom coffee sleeves at her local coffee shop. The sleeves were used to market the new exhibit at the nearby Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. 

Second, custom sleeves caught the eye of our Principal Jeff Kallay on a recent visit to the University of Richmond. These sleeves featured stories about current students. 

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Messages on wooden stir sticks? Fast facts about your institution on sugar packets? What everyday items are your guests using that can be used for more marketing and branding?