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Posts by Gordon Fletcher

Salford Business School and the Experience Economy

30 April 2021
Experience economy concert

Photo by Teddy Yang (Pexels)

By Nicola McCullough, Alex Culvin, Gordon Fletcher & Alex Fenton

As we consume less things, we seek out more experiences. There is a growing trend for people to spend money on experiences not things. This movement away from the pivotal importance of purchasing and owning things can be described as the rise of the Experience Economy. Only in the Experience Economy could ownership of an item be assessed solely on the basis of whether it ‘sparks joy’ and then have an entire Netflix series (Tidying Up) based around repeatedly asking this one question. However, the makings of the Experience Economy can be identified in much earlier academic work. For example, Future Shock (Toffler and Toffler, 1970) discusses,

how the economy is being created geared to the provision of psychic gratification, that a process of “psychologization” finds place and humans will strive for a better quality of life.

The critical theory perspective offered  by Guy DeBord (Society of the Spectacle, 1967) also opens with the observation that,

In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles.

The democratisation of air travel with cut-price airline operators, the freewheeling second Summer of Love, the rise of diverse and niche music festivals, boutique hotels, specialist retailers who are a destination, new formats for old sports, including 20/20 cricket and 7-a-side rugby, as well as new participatory sport events such as ‘tough mudders‘ have built ‘psychic gratification’ and ‘spectacles’ into increasingly sophisticated and compelling moments that define the current Experience Economy. These many examples reveal that what constitutes the Experience Economy is dynamic, fluid and forward facing in ways that heavily shape our entire economy.

As business, society, economics and politics shift so does the Experience Economy.

Young people (particularly millennials) are driving this wide-ranging change in perspective. By placing greater emphasis on the value of being involved in specific experiences, rather than obtaining material possessions, the priorities of businesses must also continuously adapt. Investing in the opportunity to create experiences will be critical to any post-pandemic economic recovery and will increasingly shape what ‘we’ do. At Salford Business School, we aim to give our students the best opportunity to excel in the shifting Experience Economy.

Experience economy matheus-bertelli

Photo from Pexels (Matheus Bertelli)

Young people & digital identity

Millennials and Generation Z embrace digital media devices as pivotal tools in their work, academic and social lives. This broad engagement with devices that can be both receiver and sender of media also reflects the demotic turnwhere everyone sits on both sides of the broadcast media supply chain as consumer and producer. This relationship has a long history, but it sums up the connection between trends in the Experience Economy and young people.

New figures show we are continuing to spend less money on buying things, and more on doing things – and telling the world about it online afterwards, of course. From theatres to pubs to shops, businesses are scrambling to adapt to this shift – The Guardian 

Many young people, and in particular those who seek to influence others, are spending increasing amounts of time and money carefully choosing locations in order to curate a fabulous and substantial Instagram and TikTok social media followings. These professional profiles often focus on lifestyle experiences, fashion, socialising and travel. Cameras and social media merge the Experience Economy with the demotic turn. This means that having an experience is not confined to being only a personal one, but an important part of creating an online identity. Having an experience is not complete for many unless they also share it online with friends, family and followers.

Football picture Photo by Israel França from Pexels

Photo by Israel França from Pexels

Transforming the consumer experience

The Experience Economy transforms consumer experience. The personalisation of all we do, see and interact with, and how this elevates our senses presents new challenges to service sector businesses. And there are many ways that this change is being experienced.  

The first is memorability. The heightened emotions during the current crisis make this a period where lasting memories are going to be made. People will recall brands that were authentic in their care and humanity and found ways to adapt their experiences to customers’ changing needs. 

Transformation is indeed another. This will go beyond the current focus on personalisation, to brands having a genuine link to people’s lives, aspirations and dreams – many of which will be different after COVID-19. People will expect brands to adapt, understand what is now important, and provide experiences that have a lasting and positive impact on their lives. 

And last, but not least, Sustainability. The pandemic has reminded the whole world that there is more to life than material possessions and has demonstrated what is possible when we act collectively.” – Dr Susanne O’Gorman

Experience economy dimentions

Pine and Gilmore (1999) revealed sixteen different ways in which experiences could be described and this is before any combinations are considered.

Pine and Gilmore defined four different types of experiences: Escapist, Entertaining, Educational and Aesthetic. People can actively seek out experiences (such as going to a concert or a football match) or people can passively – even unintentionally – receive an experience (such as an unsuspected event outside your normal daily routine). We can pull experiences to ourselves or they can be pushed to us.

Further categoration of the variety of experiences is possible between formal economic activities that aim to deliver experiences to people who pay directly or indirectly for them (Sundbo and Sorenson, 2013) in contrast to informal activities that are an unexpected side-effect or consequence of other economic activities. This range of distinction can be summarised as the difference in the experience of a taxi driver who memorably entertains you by singing your favourite songs in contrast to them then delivering you to a restaurant where you experience a once-in-a-lifetime sampling menu with your family.

According to Pine and Gilmore in 1999, experiences are “events that engage the individual in a personal way.” Experiences are set on a stage that caters to the individual consumer through a specific combination of goods and services in ways that have lasting impact and memorability. They are intangible and bespoke on every level.

Opportunities for the Experience Economy

At Salford Business School, we are ‘doing’ the Experience Economy with the development of modules that engage our students in industry. Experiencing the world of work during a course of study is the type of informal activity mentioned above. It is vital that students observe and engage with such concepts to ensure the applied nature of their understanding is capitalised upon.

The Experience Economy crosses, and even ignores, disciplinary boundaries. It is part of, and relevant to, sport, retailing, fashion, cultural and creative industries, marketing, any digital ‘user’ experience, operations management, events management and production, sustainability, tourism and all aspects of arts and media.

As such a disrepector of previous categories that are more suited to the discussion of goods or services, there are opportunities for the most ambitious to shape themselves as ‘experience entrepreneurs’ or ‘experience innovators’ by taking on the assumptions built into roles and disciplines that were shaped during different times and with different types of economic priorities. The Experience Economy is a hybrid of what has come before but it is also a reflection of how we want to ‘do’ now. Moving to a post Covid world, the Experience Economy will become the default to many across the service sector – those working, consuming or simply engaging with it.

Contact us for more information and to discuss ways to collaborate further to explore these topics.


The Rise of Fractal Politics

6 June 2017

“The rise of fractal politics” was first submitted to the Nine Dots Prize in response to the question, “Are digital technologies making politics impossible?” The essay was written as a thought piece prior to the announcement of the 2017 UK General Election.

Dr Gordon Fletcher

Dr Gordon Fletcher

Fractal Politics

In this essay “the rise of fractal politics” describes the current state of development in advanced capitalist economies. This is a development that has been accelerated by digital technologies while also describing wider ranging changes in contemporary society and politics (Marcuse 2002). Equally, many of these social and political changes have themselves become possible because of digital technologies (Rosa 2013). This is the ever-present reminder that technology is both a product of the society that produces it and a key agent for its change (Laszio 1992).


Is the Social Media Bubble about to burst?

21 November 2016
Dr Gordon Fletcher asks is the Social Media Bubble about to burst?

Dr Gordon Fletcher asks is the Social Media Bubble about to burst?

Social Media Bubble questions resurface whenever Social Media attracts bad press. For example, claims that paid ads receive low levels of engagement, or that social media is a waste of time for marketers are contributing to this thinking.

These statements appear to have practical support. Twitter recently announced redundancies and as a result its panicked users feared that the service was shutting down. One of Twitter’s headline purchases, the video service Vine, was also recently closed. A decision that, for some, served to reconfirm their fears.

Can this combination of actions be seen as signal that the social media bubble is bursting?


Drone delivery is important #DronyMcDroneface

21 October 2016
Dt Gordon Fletcher

Dr Gordon Fletcher

The recent announcement that the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will work with Amazon to test drone delivery services has been met with a series of largely negative comments. The Sun called the experiment controversial and the Telegraph implied that some testing had already occurred around the Amazon Prime Air service.

The majority of reports did successfully identify the two major limitations to the commercial use of drones. The CAA does not permit the commercial flying of drones in urban areas unless the ‘pilot’ has ‘permission to operate‘. If you want to use a drone for non-commercial work and are unsure whether you need a permission, please see a short guide for non-comercial drone flights.

This permission is by no means trivial and requires expensive training from approved providers as well as the preparation of a flight manual. Even with this permission to operate there is the second limitation that a pilot must keep visual contact with their drone at all times.


Pokemon Go App and the rise of #PokeBusiness

3 August 2016
Dt Gordon Fletcher

Dr Gordon Fletcher

There is no questioning the phenomenal rise of Pokémon Go app into our collective consciousness. The evidence is significant. Just two examples include, Pokémon Go app claims more players than Twitter users in the US and is the most downloaded app in its first week ever. Perhaps even greater evidence of the scale of this free game’s impact is the rapid appearance of criticism of the game’s mechanics.

Whether we are avid players or puzzled spectators the sudden collective awareness of this game certainly exceeds that of any other mobile app.

The combination of Nintendo’s well known characters with Niantic’s reality gaming engine has resulted in something that is compelling in itself, has broad appeal to a range of audiences and has already changed the day-to-day behaviour of many thousands of its most regular players. All of these factors have brought digital marketing related business opportunities for large and small businesses – as well as entrepreneurial individuals. We have entered the age of PokeBusiness.


Five reasons to print a magazine in 2016

14 April 2016
Ignited Magazine - Issue 2

Ignited Magazine – Issue 2

With the release of the second issue of Salford Business School’s Ignited magazine, the most frequent question that I have been asked is simply, “Why?”

“Why?” is such a provocative question and on so many levels.

This alone is reason enough to respond. The underlying assumption in these enquiries is that everything should be solely digital. A view that, on the surface, appears justified. The Centre for Digital Business recently produced practical advice for SMEs in the form of a “Going Digital” report and the School has been shortlisted in the UK Blog Awards as well as the European Search Awards and the Digital Leaders 100.

In combination, and with other activities, this is an impressive footprint in the world of digital business for any Business School.


2015: the year of connected business

27 August 2015
Dt Gordon Fletcher

Dr Gordon Fletcher

Five weeks into my new role as Dean of Salford Business School and I find myself at an important juncture of (furious) activity. To date, my personal challenge has been to balance a combination of pressures.

As a leading business school, we must ensure that we are fully capable to meet the needs of our students – to develop their personal, professional and technical skills and knowledge for their careers.

These complex needs are set against the demand that we fulfil our role in the wider world by shaping global business and management education – in particular in the areas of digital business, social business and sports business – by shaping policy and business decision making.

Of course, this combined sets of challenges do not require the reconciliation of incompatible requirements but rather to emphasise that this work is closely connected and part of the University of Salford’s new vision:

“By pioneering exceptional industry partnerships we will lead the way in real world experiences preparing students for life.”


Digital Business Maturity Model: The future of #DigitalBusiness

31 October 2014
Gordon Fletcher

Gordon Fletcher

At the Centre for Digital Business we have recently been discussing what digital business is, the future of digital business and ways to understand the stages of digital development for any business.

The contrasts between Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and Large Multi-national Organisations (LMOs) are usually quite obvious in any comparative survey of business maturity or readiness.

But, digital is different.

For example, size, in terms of any conventional measure such as the number of employees, annual turnover or worse – in the first few years for a digital start-up at least – profit, become a bit confused in the world of digital business.


Bitcoin’s blockchain could revolutionise more than just how we do #business

13 October 2014
Gordon Fletcher

Gordon Fletcher

Efforts to explain Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general have generally focused on how they are both a new form of money as well as a challenge to existing forms of money.

Cryptocurrencies are novel as they are only possible because of the ready availability of high-speed computing and networks. They are a challenge to today’s currencies because of their decentralised nature, taking them out of national governments’ control. Small signs that Bitcoin has filtered into the popular imagination include its appearance in US courtroom television drama The Good Wife, in an episode called “Bitcoin for Dummies“.

What has been given less attention is the mechanism that makes the bitcoin network possible, the blockchain. To own and use bitcoin or any other cryptocurrencies requires no knowledge of how the blockchain works. Nevertheless the concept is relatively straightforward. It is best thought of as a complete ledger of every bitcoin transaction ever made, of which every bitcoin user has a copy that is constantly updated as new transactions are made.

But this accounting analogy is something of a disservice; the bitcoin blockchain has the potential for so many other uses beyond exchanging value that it shouldn’t be ignored.


5 management lessons that you learn from #Pinterest

19 September 2014
Gordon Fletcher

Gordon Fletcher

In the ten years since Tim O’Reilly coined and popularised the concept of Web 2.0 it has become the basis for many claims and blames. Invoking Web 2.0 has also become the vehicle by which many traditional roles are being redefined and extended (or at least claimed to be).

One of the most noticeable of these changes has been the role and meaning of the curator. Formerly associated almost exclusively with museums and galleries, curatorship was once solely a profession for maintaining and documenting artefacts assembled within a consciously organised collection. But Web 2.0 has changed our perspective of who a curator is and the basis for their activities on social networks such as Pinterest.

What management lessons can we learn from Pinterest?