Cornflakes are not very preferred breakfast in my house so very often we don't even have it in stock. So this morning when I told my daughter I am going out to get a pack, she insisted I get the plain flavour. She reminded me specifically not to get the honey flavour. I assumed this is because she did not like the honey flavour which I seem to have bought the previous time.
What happened next is quite intriguing. Not only did she pour cornflakes and milk in the bowl, she also poured a large spoon of honey on top. I asked her the reason - "that's the right way to eat cornflakes", she insisted.
The brand would read this act of pouring honey in cornflakes as potential demand for honey flavoured cornflakes - the agency would helpfully bring in the supporting data probably - but only one problem - this customer cluster does not want it, they want to experience adding the honey to it!
Many brands still sell by deconstructing their physical product - CPU, RAM, Screen size type - or by price - "our premium products are the cheapest in the market." (what's worse, many marketers even invoke the term price leadership for it). What is lost here is that simple fact that consumer is looking for an experience.
So what are the start and end points of experience? A tea drinker often starts his 'tea experience' when the water is set for boiling, way before tea is actually made. In fact, after tea is served, it is not common to find the same person in no hurry to consume it, because he wants to prolong his tea experience, and drinking tea is just the incidental part of it! A friend of mine, connoisseur of the famous Hilsa fish educated me further by saying Hilsa experience in their household starts the previous evening when he and his wife argue which fish to get the next day and settle on the Hilsa! Alcohol consumers are probably worse - their experience starts when a guy in Bangalore calls up his friend in Delhi on Sunday - "hey, I am reaching their Friday morning on some work - keep your evening free for a drink!"
Fortunately, brands have started focussing on the experience. So, can a brand design a customer experience? Recent research says no. Experience is an outcome(of say, a journey) and very individual specific. A brand can probably design an intended experience, not the actual experience. One can only aim that the gap between the intended experience and the actual experience is as low as possible. That's the harder part and calls for lot of creativity and time to build it and probably explains why brands often take the easier route, even though the brand has to eventually pay a price in the market.