How to create better experiences

Who doesn't remember a day out ski touring? In Chamonix a few years back, we hit an ice cliff, and had to rappel down about 50 feet. It was  very  scary!

Who doesn't remember a day out ski touring? In Chamonix a few years back, we hit an ice cliff, and had to rappel down about 50 feet. It was very scary!

If you want to create better experiences, the first thing you have to do is define what better means, and know how good your experiences are right now.

But how do you know if your experiences are any good? And how do you know, when you're designing an experience, that it'll be the sort of thing that'll work? 

And by work, we mean stick in someone's mind, change the way they feel — about themselves, you, and what you do — make them tell their friends about the experience, and keep them coming back for more.

NB! Remember that only 7% of word of mouth is online — as per marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and bestselling author Jonah Berger. So, despite the magic of digital tracking, a huge proportion of the impact of your marketing, and the experiences you create, is still very hard to track.

The best way to begin is by benchmarking the experience you're thinking about.

MARS and the 5-star experience rating

Based on years of research and sound psychological evidence, we've created a direct, simple way for you to rate, benchmark, and think about an experience. Like ratings systems used by companies from Amazon to Zagats, it's a score out of five. And like ratings systems that consider experiences — think Zagats for restaurants, Treatwell for beauty salons and spas — it's made up out of more than one indicator, based on the elements that matter most.

So what matters most to an experience? We believe the best starting point is to think about what makes people happy (NB this isn't simply smile-your-face happy, but real, meaningful happiness). This can be summed in the mnemonic "MARS":

  • M — mastery & competence
  • A — autonomy
  • R — relatedness
  • S — safety, security, status

The best experiences are From MARS

If MARS is what makes us happy, the way to benchmark any experience can be elegantly summed up in five categories. Inspired by the thought that when we talk about a great experience, we often say it's "out of this world", we use the mnemonic "From MARS":

  1. From — flow
    During the experience were you so immersed in it — so in the zone, in the moment, in flow — that you forgot everything else?
  2. M — mastery & competence
    Did the experience challenge you? Did you get a sense of achievement from it?
  3. A — awesomeness
    Was it awesome? Did you get a kick out of it? Did it touch you — emotionally, psychologically, physically, spiritually?
  4. R — relatedness
    Did the experience bring you closer to others — friends, family, community — or give you a stronger sense of your own identity?
  5. S — story
    Was the experience different from daily life? Was it out of the ordinary? Did it give you a story you'd share?

How to use the 5-star Experience Rating

  1. Rate it — hot or not!
    To rate an experience, give it a score out of 5 on each of the 5 scales — where 1 = "not at all", and 5 = "yes, absolutely" — then add them all up and divide by 5. This gives you measures for individual categories, and an overall measure.  

  2. Try it now!
    Think about an experience you provide, then click here and answer the questions in the form. The overall score will give you a sense of whether the experience you're aiming to create is compelling. If so, great. If not, act now! 

  3. Make it better… through design & our help
    For any category, where an experience got a high score, work out why. And for any where it got a low score, consider how you can re-design the experience to improve the score. Perhaps your experience is a lot of fun, but it's unchallenging? Or it's challenging, but you could add a bit more story?
    For an external audit of the experiences you provide, and for help making your experiences more compelling, memorable, and successful at connecting with people and spreading your message, get in touch


We'd like to thank the people whose work and thinking has inspired and informed the 5-star Experience Rating: psychologists Daniel Kahneman, Edward Deci, Richard Ryan, Ryan Howell, Elizabeth Dunn, Michael Norton, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Tim Kasser, and Tom Gilovich; and business experts, and authors of the best-selling book The Experience Economy, Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore.

For more on the inspiration for the "5-star Experience Rating", read our original post, Revealed: the 5-star rating system the Experience Economy so badly needs.