A while back, Justin Majeau of Spiritual Horticulturalist emailed me about this article from Fast Company a couple of months ago. It begins like this:

In the course of this year’s Customers First research, no company produced a more polarizing debate than Apple and its Apple Stores. Some people lauded Apple’s in-store service desks, called Genius Bars, for spinning an experience out of customers’ problems with their iWhatevers. An equal number argued that Genius Bars mask the fact that Apple products don’t always get the job done.


The divide cut to the heart of a larger question: Do you have to master the basics before you create meaningful customer experiences? Or can experiences, in effect, ameliorate any underlying troubles in your business? To us, the answer is clear–which is why Apple Stores isn’t among our winners. “Are you delivering on the promise of your business?” asks Phil Terry, CEO of experience consultancy Creative Good. “Once you get that right, then you can innovate and do exciting stuff.”

The article is a good read, but I think I have to disagree a bit here…and go out on a limb against the great minds like Lewis Carbone and James Gilmore. In every speech that I make, I make it a point to laud Apple’s Genius Bars. The reason is that I believe that one of the basic tenets of experiential marketing is that it should be predicated on a personal, one-to-one exchange between marketer and consumer. This is a key ingredient in connecting with so-called influencers or mavens, who are wholly put-off by traditional marketing and ad overkill. The Genius Bar does this in a remarkably compelling and beneficial way. In this regard, it should be a clear winner.

Moreoever, I sort of disagree with the notion that a company needs to get its products or services right before they can start creating experiences. One of the greatest benefits of experiential marketing — and the personal connections it espouses — is that marketers can access invaluable learnings about their customers and how they use products and services. A great experience — and the consumer insights gleaned from them — can actually help companies restructure and rethink their way of doing business. The rise fo brand evangelists makes this absolutely clear. Experiential marketing isn’t a part of CRM; it is an entire redefinition of CRM altogether.

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