The Experience Planner: The Next Step In The Planner Role Evolution

The planner function (often referred to as the strategist) within the agency, serves to lay the foundational direction of the brand’s activities by taking clear, actionable objectives and mapping them out into an approach that has the best chance of success.

Historically, there have been two types of planners (as defined in “Why Experience Architecture is the future of planning” by Nick Hirst):

1. Conceptual planners: They believe in concepts like ideas and essences. When they look at consumers, they value universal, deep, motivational insights above descriptions of behaviour.

2. Practical planners: They believe in dynamic, tangible things like plans and activities. When they look at consumers, they value behavioural fact over abstract psychological fluff. They believe that what people do and where they are should lead investment and by extension, marketing thinking.

Brand Perception, The Experience, And The Experience Planner

Taking a step back and looking at how people perceive brands, we believe that the perception of the brand is merely a collection of interactions and engagements between that person, the brand, and other external influences such as word of mouth. This is, in essence, a set of experiences; experiences that are each completely unique from person to person.

Hirst continues: “Consider what experiences are. They’re about what you do over time, but also what it’s like inside your head. Understanding an experience is about understanding how external stimuli interact with each other, and with your psychological state. Like, for example, how the stimulus of a TV ad interacts with the programming around it, the situation in which it’s seen, and the psychological state of the viewer.” []

The Experience Planner, as defined by Hirst, takes the notion of the conceptual planner (unlocking human drivers) and combines it with the practical planner (behavioural fact). It’s not about the drivers of human behaviour or the behaviour itself, it’s about how they interact with each other, it’s about the overall (consumer) experience both physically and cerebrally.

The Planner And The Role Of ‘The Experience’

“Traditionally”, part of the digital agency’s offering is that of UX or User Experience. This would typically comprise the planning, structuring and design of an online experience. Taking the objectives of a brand and designing a web experience around achieving these objectives. Not unlike the role of a planner.

The skills and understanding of how to design and execute an optimal brand experience within the new consumer context have been established from within the digital world. The Experience Planner’s job now is to elevate the role of ‘the experience’ from a purely digital circumstance to a holistic brand approach. This will be done by understanding how to identify the shared values of target consumer and brand as well as through the understanding how messages spread through paid, owned and earned media channels (offline and online).

Phil Dearson puts it very succinctly: “Organisations with little digital experience ask me what the role of digital is. That’s the wrong question. The question should be “how should our organisation operate in the 21st Century?”. In the 21st Century digital technologies are an ordinary, everyday part of people’s lives. In this context it’s important to understand what digital is.”

The Experience Planner: A More Holistic Approach

So, more and more, experiences tend to be built upon digital foundations – be it an interaction between brand and consumer on a Facebook page, a TV show that drives a dialogue on Twitter, or a voice search from your mobile for a recommendation. The Experience Planner will be able to view this entire ecosystem from both a holistic and granular point of view, making sure that both brand and target consumer get what they want from the engagement. And the world will be a better place for it.

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