Yesterday we visited Hoi An in central Vietnam as part of our family Christmas holiday. Every guide book and verbal reference promised a wonderful experience. All the elements were there; a visually rich ancient city of promising smells of Vietnamese cuisine wafting over cobblestone streets.
However, it was not until the very end of our three hour tour when the experience become truly authentic. We reached the market where locals bought and sold fresh produce, made noodles on the road side and one man abruptly stopped his motorbike and trailer on a busy side street to climb a coconut tree ready for harvesting. These final experiences will be the ones we remember.
Great experiences ignite all the human senses to embed the memory in the brain and in an ever increasing insular and digital world, events and experiences are more important than ever. Especially for marketers and the brands they represent. We are desensitised due to the ubiquity of marketing and sales messages and are searching for the authentic, as we did in Hoi An yesterday.
In response to this overload, it seems to me the world is craving unique experiences. We seek the little known town devoid of other tourists. We clamour for tickets to the concert. We envy our friends who learn to cook the perfect Pho from a preeminent Vietnamese chef.
By experiences I don’t mean how well the waiter served your table; that is customer service. Nor do I mean how many fantastic pools there were at the resort; that is facilities. I mean events and activities which are specific to a time and place – activities which embody the key elements of a brand without having to mention them once. Experiences which lure each of the human senses.
A cold winter’s night onboard a traditional yacht where the aged whiskey cuts through the salt air to warm whilst the wooden hull makes its quiet way over the sea.
A roof top New Year’s Eve party where the lights dance off the stone buildings and the sound of the modern jazz band echo around the bay proving ancient and modern can combine successfully.
A private photography session learning to capture the light and beauty of a treasured location through a series of cameras from the 1920s through to the latest digital SLR.
It is an assault on the senses never to be forgotten.