Marketing content shared with Michigan Business Network by:
Bonnie J. Knutson, PhD
The School of Hospitality Business
Broad College of Business
Michigan State University
Well, is it?
I bet 99.9% of your customers have no idea whether your business is cheugy or not. This is probably true of you and your employees too, unless, of course, you might be talking to a high school student who is working after school and a fan of TikTok. Or maybe a college intern who is fulfilling a required internship in accounting and checks her Instagram the minute she is off work. Or possibly a newly hired Gen Z marketing assistant manager who daily checks out what Brazilian soccer star and influencer, Neymar, Jr., is up to.
For those of us who are no longer members of the youth culture, cheugy is sort of a catch-all word that is used to describe anything that is uncool, untrendy, or simply out of date.i There is no hard and fast rule about what makes something cheugy or who determines it is cheugy. But as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart reportedly said when trying to define obscenity in 1964, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description…, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…”
So I ask you again, is your business cheugy?
I often write about how businesses cannot just provide customers with a storefront, a website, or some product/service to buy anymore. Instead, they must orchestrate memorable experiences for customers. Your business will exist in a future where it will use its facilities as a stage, its services as props, and its employees as actors to intentionally create lasting, memorable experiences for customers. Experiences, I might add, that will find their way onto Facebook and Instagram. Business must exist and prosper in this Experience Economy.ii
My dad’s given name was Emilo, but everyone called him Eggie. I suppose that is why I have always had a fondness for the unconventional, fun-loving New York cab driver, Iggy (played by Christopher Lloyd) in the old television series, Taxi. He wanted to be the best taxi driver in the world so when he would pick up a passenger, he would serve them sandwiches and drinks, sing Frank Sinatra songs, and even give them a tour of the city. Iggy turned what might have been a dull, here-to-there cab ride into a memorable experience that his passenger would never forget –and would tip well. His taxi became the stage, the food and beverages became the props, and he became the actor who staged the experience. It is the same for your business. Your facilities are simply the stage, your products and services are simply the props, and your employees are simply the actors that provide exclusive access to the customer’s experience.
A business’s transition into this Experience Economy offers opportunities for rethinking and redesigning facilities – i.e. your stage. And if this past year has taught us anything, it has taught us that we must rethink and redesign our spaces to take advantage of opportunities that we may never have though about. To get your creative juices going, here are what I might term the Virtual Venue to consider how technology might be integrated into your non-cheugy thinking and planning.
First, if Live Nation showed us anything, it showed us that if people cannot go to the concert the concert (for a fee, of course) can go to the people. Steinway Piano followed a similar path, producing virtual lunch concerts as a platform for artists to stay connected with their audiences. It was so successful that the platform is being re-designed for a post lockdown era. And what about those virtual celebrity greetings? Could they be customized thank you messages to your customers from the likes of Mike Ditka, Gabby Douglas, or even Ice-T? From jumbo flat screens to 5K clarity to faster wi-fi to Firestick and Roku streaming, technology has opened the door for any business to use its physical footprint to expand customers’ experiences into a virtual footprint.
These brief examples touch on how technological advances mandate fresh thinking about changing lifestyles and engaging multi-generational market segments. To get your creative juices flowing even more, take a few minutes to view this Joseph Pine clip at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOjUxGqh7aA. Then have fun innovating so your business will not be cheugy.
Your Bottom Line will thank you!
i The New York Times and Urbandictionary.com
ii B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore. The Experience Economy (1999)