In a few weeks we will be celebrating marketing at the world’s first Festival of Marketing. In line with our Modern Marketing Manifesto we believe that now is an exciting time to be in marketing.

The events that make up the Festival (Jump, Crunch, Punch, Funnel) cover different aspects of marketing. But perhaps the unifying theme is customer experience, across digital and physical.

The ‘experience economy’ was first proposed by Pine and Gillmore in 1998 in the Harvard Business Review. It describes how economies mature over time from ‘commodity’ through ‘goods’ to ‘services’ and, finally, ‘experiences’.

In this final stage businesses can charge for the value of the "transformation", of the “feeling”, that an experience offers.

Customer Experience is one of the core constituents of our Modern Marketing Manifesto. We believe that customer experience is becoming the best source of competitive advantage. We believe that the experiences themselves are marketing.

We can all, no doubt, think of feelings and experiences that relate to the physical world. I would encourage you to watch Richard Seymour’s TED talk on how we ‘feel’ beauty. We can have visceral feelings. Ones that hit us in the solar plexus. Perhaps a piece of music, literature, art and so on. 

But what about the digital world? Is it possible, as (digital) marketers, to deliver such experiences?

When was the last time you got all choked up about a website or app? Can you recall a transformative digital experience? Have you felt the beauty of digital?

I’m not sure I have to be honest. There are stories and content online that have captured the imagination: Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches, Caine’s Cardboard Arcade, perhaps even Volkswagen’s “The Force” Star Wars ad?

Cain's Cardboard Arcade

These may cause a tightening in your stomach but they are not inherently a digital, or interactive, experience. They just testify to the power of storytelling and the pathos of the human condition whatever the medium. 

So the question remains. What inherently digital experience, product or service has struck you momentarily silent? The first time I used Google Earth I remember being pretty awestruck.

I see that the likes of Hailo and AirBnB are building highly successful businesses based not on ‘traditional’ marketing but based on outstanding customer experience. We know too that the likes of Amazon and Google have become the titans they have from their relentless optimisation of the customer experience. 

It is rare we single out the government for excellence in anything let alone digital experiential marketing. But I think GDS (Government Digital Service) is a shining example.

Even US digital sage Tim O’Reilly described the GDS digital strategy as ‘inspiring’, as ‘revolutionary’, as the ‘new Bible for anyone working in Government… around the world’. 

Not only does GDS have a digital strategy, it has digital and design principles, all of which make a lot of sense. The evidence so far is that GDS is practicing what it preaches and it is working.

The strapline for the digital transformation it is bringing about is “digital services so good people prefer to use them”. This focus on the customer, the focus on the experiences, is not only at the heart of what it is to be ‘digital’ but it should be at the heart of what it is to be a modern marketer. 

I asked my wife last night whether she’d had any digital experiences which hit her in the solar plexus, which she physically felt as beauty. She thought for a second and replied, in all seriousness, 'renewing my car tax online'.

Econsultancy offers a range of services that help businesses evolve and optimise their customer experience. Contact us to chat through how we can help you transform your business.

Ashley Friedlein

Published 19 September, 2013 by Ashley Friedlein @ Econsultancy

Ashley Friedlein is Founder of Econsultancy and President of Centaur Marketing. Follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (6)

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James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Ashley,

I'm with you on the GDS - if you read the entire digital strategy doc it sets out a clear vision and the guiding principles are compelling. Proof is always in the delivery and it's going to be a while before the services are upgraded to reflect the principles. One area ripe for improvement is the Government Gateway which has a quite frankly awful UI design and obvious process flaws (such as having to do a double sign-in for self-assessment payments).

Another company that has a clear digital vision is Tate, which sets out to achieve "digital as a dimension of everything".


almost 5 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at EconsultancyStaff

@James Yes, Tate is the other example I often give ;)

GDS are pretty focused on delivery e.g. read "Digital Transformation in 2013: The strategy is delivery. Again" at

But transforming the entire government is one hell of a task!

almost 5 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

Totally agreed. & 'strategy' vs 'execution' often very different; here they match up very well. Especially impressive, as you hint at, as it all goes fully against the massive stereotype of Government change-resistance being virtually impossible to overcome.

almost 5 years ago


David Moss

The Government Digital Service aim to hit their customers in the solar plexus?

almost 5 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at EconsultancyStaff

@David Yup, I reckon that sums it up pretty well ;)

almost 5 years ago


Chris Wood, Client Account Manager at Xerox

Interesting comment from your wife. Whilst I agree the experience is good due to it's ease and simplicity, I would'nt say it's an emotional one!

Not wishing to undermine GDS achievements - which are impressive, but didn't the oft quoted example of online car tax renewal pre-date the formation of GDS?

almost 5 years ago

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