The shift to experience economy
Pine and Gilmore (1999) suggest the economic progression from commodities to goods to services to experiences. Many traditional service industries have started to implement experiences in their businesses to engage and connect with customers in a memorable way. Much like services are intangible and goods are tangible, experiences are memorable. Technology has fuelled the progression to experience economy and especially my generation – millennials, share experiences on social media. As stated here happiness for millennials is not so much about career status or possessions but about shared experiences and memories. I attend most events for these reasons and this was also the case for Beltane. As much as social media is used for sharing experiences, my generation also wants offline experiences.
The four realms of an experience
Pine and Gilmore propose that an experience can engage customers on different levels (see picture below). The participation may be active, where customers affect the performance. By contrast, in passive participation customers do not have a direct impact on the performance. My participation in Beltane was passive, even though I actively moved around the venue to follow the performance. Another dimension of experience describes the connection that links the event with customers, immersion and absorption. In Beltane, I felt immersed in the event as some of the performances took place only a few meters before me. The performers engaged with guests by coming face-to-face with the audience. In the spectra, (see picture below) there are four realms: entertainment, education, escape and esthetic. My experience in Beltane falls into the estethic category where my participation is passive, but I am immersed in the activity.
The five key elements
There are five key elements in the event design:
Much like in disneyization, theming the experience helps individuals to know what to expect. Successful themes are compelling and captivating. The theme at the fire festival was obviously fire, and the symbolic meanings were captured in the performances
2. Harmonize impressions with positive cues
“Revel in the first joys of summer with us” is a sentence printed on the flyer of Beltane. Pine and Gilmore state the importance of introducing cues that affirm the nature of the experience to the guest. After long winter months, this sentence makes a positive impact on guests, myself included.
3. Eliminate negative cues
Eliminating factors that diminish or distract from the theme is equally important as layering positive cues. Beltane society suggests putting phones away during the event to be able to truly immerse in it.
4. Mix in memorabilia
People buy and collect certain items for the memorabilia. It could be in a simple form of a ticket. As technology is taking over all industries including events, it was quite refreshing that for Beltane you had to collect the ticket to enter the festival. I did not end up keeping the ticket for the memorabilia of the event, but I can see why others would.
5. Engage the five senses
How you sense an experience supports and enhances its theme. In Beltane, you can see and smell the fire, hear the drums that play in the background and taste and feel the air that is slowly turning into summer.
Using these five methods might not always guarantee success. Pine and Gilmore point out that companies that fail to provide engaging experiences or overprice those experiences will have pressure on the demand or pricing. Additionally, companies that do not refresh their experiences fail to keep customers interested. I think this statement applies to the events as the industry is getting more and more competitive. To my understanding the concept of Beltane has stayed the same over the years. As the event does not run for commercial success, the pressure is not on pricing or refreshing the event. In that sense, Beltane does not have the stress to reinvent itself to gain visitors as some other events may have.