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Revealed: the 5-star rating system the Experience Economy so badly needs

MARS is a useful acronym for how to find happiness.

MARS is a useful acronym for how to find happiness.

Most industries have their rating system. They're direct, simple ways for other people and the industry to benchmark and tell others how good something is. Some examples:

  • The travel sector has many, including TripAdvisor.
  • Restaurants have them. Think of:
    1. The AA
    2. Michelin stars
    3. Zagat's rating
  • Food, in general, has the Taste Awards.
  • Spas have them:
    • Treatwell is the market leader.
  • Retail items, like books and gadgets, have them:
    1. Goodreads' out-of-five rating system
    2. Amazon's out-of-5 star rating system

There are plenty more. But the Experience Economy, overall, doesn't. And this bothers me, because I think a rating system would be really useful.

Here's how we worked this out

So we've spent the past year working on a way to compare experiences, a way to help people work out if it's the sort of experience that's right for them, and how good it is compared to other experiences. The result is — yes, you've guessed it — an out-of-five stars Experience Rating.

Like Zagats and Treatwell, it's made up out of more than one indicator, based on the components that matter most to an eating out or beauty experience.

Zagat's is made up of:

  1. Food
  2. Decor
  3. Service
  4. Price

Treatwell's rating comes from:

  1. Venue
  2. Ambience
  3. Cleanliness
  4. Staff
  5. Value

These are the 5 things that matter most to an experience

So what matters most to an experience? Inspired by the discoveries our founder made when he researched his bestseller Stuffocation, we've worked out a system.

So, the result is based on the psychological research on what gives us happiness, and, therefore, what makes a great experience.

At this point, we'd like to thank the people whose work and thinking has inspired and informed this: Daniel Kahneman, Ryan Howell, Elizabeth Dunn, Michael Norton, Joe Pine, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Tim Kasser, and Tom Gilovich.

To begin with, we considered the the evidence on what makes us happy. This can be summed in the mnemonic "MARS":

  • M — mastery
  • A — autonomy
  • R — relatedness
  • S — safety, security, status
  • … and experiences rather than stuff

And so the key elements of any experience, the way to benchmark any experience can be summed up in five categories. They can be summed up with the thought that an experience could be "out of this world", and 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
    Did the experience challenge you? Did you get a sense of achievement from it?
  3. A — awesomeness
    Was it awesome? That is, did you enjoy 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?

To rate an experience, you rate it on each of the 5 scales, then our system will add them up and divide by 5… giving us both individual measures and an overall measure.

Here's what the 5-star Experience Rating will do

This rating system has the potential to give every experience in the world a out-of-5 star rating… helping more people like you work out which experiences they should, shouldn't, and really should be doing. And if the experiences you're creating are 3, 4, or even 5-star experiences.

What do you think? We've spent a lot of time on this, and discussed it with a few people, but the light of day and the opinions of others are important. We'd love to hear what you think. Please email our founder, James Wallman.

Here's one key trend in experiences: personal tours

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