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Galveston Island CVB

What is Experience Design?

Experience Design is about your brand (event, company, product) interacting with your consumer, allowing your brand to come alive for them. This creates a fresh connection between brand and consumer. These connections should be formed by experiences that are personally relevant to the consumer. It should be memorable and interactive and evoke emotion.

The 3 Stages of an Experience

  1. Experience/Encoding – This is the stage where your consumer interacts with the brand message. During this stage, your memory begins to encode the information it is receiving.

  1. Memory/Storage – This is the stage where your consumer's brain decides if the message is worthy of long- or short-term memory. This is the most important stage. If your message is not strong enough, the consumer's brain will process it as a short-term memory, and the message will never reach the next stage. This is also known as forgetting.

  1. Recall/Retrieval – This is the stage where your consumer retrieves or remembers the message over time.


The 5 Senses

Your five senses can aid in the process of creating a long-term memory. Your senses, also referred to as "receptors" are sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Although all people have a dominant sense, the most common receptors you'll be focusing on are sight and sound.

Once your receptors capture an experience, the experience goes through the quick process of sensory memory. Sensory memory is a hub. It cannot hold memory for more than a couple of seconds. It decides what gets thrown out and what moves on.

It is at this point that your brain filters out weak sensory experiences into short-term memory and strong sensory experiences into long-term memory. The more receptors an experience can activate, the more likely the experience will be filtered into long-term memory.

Emotion is Key

Emotion is a key component to creating a memorable experience. Forming emotional memories  occurs in a small section of your brain called the Amygdala. The Amygdala is part of the process of consolidating information into long-term memory.


The first stage of memory is encoding – when a stimulus is encountered for the first time. By influencing perception and attention, the Amygdala can alter the encoding of episodic memory such that emotional events receive priority.

Combining Sensory Experience with Emotions

Both your senses and emotions carry a lot of weight when encoding memory. If you can create an experience that also triggers an emotion, you are guaranteed to have a higher rate of recall. Sight and sound are the senses most likely to trigger an emotional response, which is why commercials are so successful. If you heard Sarah McLachlan's song "Angel" on the radio, there's a good chance that you're going to think about the animals from the SPCA commercial. This is sensory recall – what we all aim for when creating a message for our consumers.

Recall: The Subconscious Mind

Sensory marketing can be used to create subconscious triggers that characterize consumer perception of abstract notions of the product. During recall, the brain "replays" a pattern of neural activity that was originally generated in response to a particular event, echoing the brain's perception of the real event. Memory retrieval therefore requires re-visiting the nerve pathways the brain formed when encoding the memory, and the strength of those pathways determines how quickly the memory can be recalled.

Measuring the ROI of an Experience

The ROI of an experience can be measured by five different levels. Your ultimate goal is to reach level five – advocacy.

  • Level 1: Awareness

    • Number of people exposed

    • Increase in recall and understanding

  • Level 2: Consideration

    • Increase in reported "fit" with beliefs and actions

    • Change in perception

  • Level 3: Preference

    • Increase in perceived relevance

    • Agreement with messaging

    • Positive differentiation

    • Intent to purchase

  • Level 4: Commitment

    • Increase in aligned attitudes and behaviors

    • Intent to learn more about the brand

    • Increase in belief and trust

    • Purchase

  • Level 5: Advocacy

    • Positive word of mouth recommendation

    • Number of advocates

    • Number of people acting on recommendations

    • Net promoter score

A strong brand message paired with an emotional sensory experience will produce more level three and above reactions from your attendees. These experiences can be produced before, during, and after an event.

Irving Convention & Visitors Bureau
News and Announcements
A 38-year Disney veteran, Dee didn’t specifically answer these questions. Instead, she made the audience answer them during an interactive, high-energy program that explored how to fundamentally develop your brand and ensure that the talent you hire reflects the same value system, work ethic, and understanding of your heritage. Dee’s role is to help organizations  emulate what Disney does so well: hire, train, and immerse employees in their corporate culture. She shared five key insights in her presentation: 

1. The best employees are those that align with the company’s desired behaviors (non-negotiables), since the company’s (corporate) culture is defined by how employees  behave.

2. Slight adjustments in the hiring process can yield a talent pool with greater propensity for excellence.

3. Training is critical to achieve desired behaviors and outcomes from employees.

4. Intentional listening is crucial for effective communication.

5. The level of care and respect employees show for their customers and each other is a direct  reflection of the level of care their employer shows for them.

One key element to Disney’s excellence is the extent to which they over-manage the details. By constantly monitoring their culture, service levels, brand, innovation, and leadership (Circle of Excellence), Disney has retained a position of dominance in hospitality.

What is your organization's story? What is the total brand experience? See the animation and tell the story.

The event was sponsored by the Marriott Wardman Park, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Disney Destinations, the MPI Foundation, Alex Plaxen Media, and Christie’s Photography.

Article by Michelle Coombs, National Sales Director, San Diego Tourism Authority and Annette M. Suriani, CMP, Chief Meetings Strategist, AMS Meetings Solutions

Howard County Tourism and Promotion
AMA Executive Conference Centers
Visit Phoenix
DNC Parks & Resorts at Shenandoah, Inc.


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