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A virtual corridor at the Heineken Experience

4. The shape of an experience

Part of a short series on memory design

Denise Hampson
Friday 24th June 2022

Yesterday's article introduced emotional engagement and story telling as factors for helping customers create stronger brand memories. But how else can emotional engagement be amplified? It can also be influenced by the shape of an experience.

All experiences have a “shape”, whether they are real or virtual. The shape is the layout of the experience and the path customers take through that space. Imagine you go to the dentist. The shape of your path would likely include checking in at reception, sitting in a waiting room, going into the consulting room, and then paying at reception on the way out again.

In a clothing store, you walk in through the main door, and then go to anywhere your attention is drawn. If you want to try an item on you’ll head for the fitting rooms, and then queue to pay at the checkout before leaving.

What about going to an art gallery? Here you are free to walk in any direction and pay attention to and interact with anything you like, in any order and you are free to leave at any time. What is the shape of a visit to a supermarket? The theatre? A hospital appointment? Dinner at your favourite restaurant?

Online experiences have “shapes” too. There are experiences where you can browse content in any order, but let’s say, for example, you want to book a flight, you will end up in a page flow that takes you in stages through the baggage options and the seat selection to the checkout and payment.

Linear shape vs gallery shape

There are some spaces that are particularly interesting because they are completely linear. Here all customers follow a pre-designed and curated path. The Heineken Experience that I mentioned in the memory design introduction is linear. So too is The London Dungeon, The Shrek Adventure, Madame Tussauds, The Uniqlo LifeWear exhibition, the Beano Exhibition, the immersive Titanic exhibition.

Rides at theme parks such as Alton Towers and Disney are also linear. At these theme parks, half the experience of a ride is created in the build-up as you wait to go on it. They set the scene, tell you the back story and build your anticipation. At the end everybody walks through the gift shop to get back to the open park. Many online games follow a linear format.

What is the shape of your customer’s experience?

If you are creating an immersive, emotionally-engaging experience then a linear shape is the most powerful setting because you can control the order and the pace of the narrative and the stories you share.

One very famous retail store is totally linear and I'll be talking about them in the next post on Monday.