The Soul in the New Machine? Try Delight

What is the nature of delight?
A principle of pleasure.
Perhaps a sense of mystery unfurled.
A tinge of magic.

Consider this: today your vehicle alerts you when the oil needs to be changed, the tires are low, or it needs service. But in tomorrow’s world, the onboard computer sends an alert to the dealer and a text to you. (Unhappy face?) The vehicle makes an appointment electronically, enters the date on your calendar, and drives itself to the service bay. Its sensors reset when service is performed. Then, it drives itself home – and probably texts you when it’s on its way. (Happy face). Useful. Practical. In a way, wondrous. To the generation before us, it will appear almost as an act of magic. To the generation that follows, it’s a viable future. And it’s the future of successful brands.

The Brand Promise: Unmatched Experience
What do we value most in brands that we’re attracted to? Quality? Certainly. Value? Absolutely. Delight? These days, yes. It’s not hard to imagine how everyday experiences can be accompanied by a sense of delight. Technology amplifies these brand values because it offers a way to better control the basis on which we build customer experiences. Consider Disney World’s MagicBand. It “speaks” to you, leads you, guides you. It creates a frictionless experience of not just the park, but the entire vacation.

Have you landed and found your luggage? Walk downstairs to exit door four: The Disney bus will pick you up. Lunch? The restaurant you chose is on your right; your meals will be served in ten minutes. Kids ready for splashy fun – and some singing puppets? It’s a two minute walk to Splash Mountain (you can turn left now). We’re expecting you, and the line is only three minutes!

It’s not about a device; it’s not just software. It’s a thoughtfully designed, unbroken digital chain that delivers vastly enhanced value and a better experience in the park. For a parent coping with eager and excited children, it must also feel like a blessing. It’s digital thinking: rethinking business from start to finish. From sensors and communication devices to cloud-enabled data gathering and rigorous algorithmic analysis, digital thinking creates vastly improved experiences for people. Happy faces, indeed.

Accelerating Brands, Eliminating Friction
Brands are too easily dismissed as slogans, catch phrases, taglines. But in practice, brand is shorthand for the promise a company makes to its customers. It’s a vessel, a symbol that takes on meaning only insofar as it signals the strength of a reciprocal relationship – between companies bringing something to market and people who see value in what they sell. Brand experiences are what technology enables us to do, as consumers, as buyers, as clients and customers of companies, as we engage in the most elemental of transactions: buying and using a product in the way it was designed, or benefiting from services we purchase. Digital design – basing products on a sense of human empathy, designing services with the needs and wants of users in the foreground – will allow products and services to operate seamlessly alongside our lives. It creates a pleasurable, frictionless experience based on preferences, driven by adept and powerful algorithmic analysis. In time, technology becomes invisible – but the customer experience does not. This has implications for businesses from product conception, design, and testing, through sales, marketing, and service. Emerging companies and those with portfolios of esteemed global brands are reconceiving, redesigning, and reengineering how they bring products and services to market, creating frequent-use platforms with an equal sense of how benefits can be delivered to customers and how value can return to them. At the core is a differentiated interaction with a brand that meets people “where they live.” It knows where they are; it understands their individual likes and dislikes; it tailors experiences specifically for them.

Making Magic, Designing Delight
In turn, brands can create forms of delight, value, even wonder. While an enhanced customer experience is happening, customers won’t even think about it. They’ll opt in, and experience that delight. But they’ll also remember an outstanding experience. The future is never here; it’s always only a day, an hour, a minute ahead. What’s your platform? Not the program to promote your brand, but the platform you rely on to engage, interact with, and retain your valuable customers? How companies architect brand experiences by leveraging digital thinking will define a new age of contextual, interactive brand management. We call it digital empathy: designing experiences for people living and working in a data-driven world.

the author

Theo Forbath

Theo Forbath is Chief Transformation Officer, VP at Idea Couture. See his full bio here.