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Are You Sick of The Notion of "Experience? What Comes Next? Try The Notion of "Identity."

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on May 10, 2006

I know this brilliant socio-linguist who’s a professor at Columbia University and she had this incredibly paradigm-shifting insight yesterday. She said “you’re always talking about experience, the consumer experience, as if experience was something you can simply build and give to someone. It’s such a passive way of looking at things. And it’s totally wrong.”

Wow. Totally wrong. OK, she went to say that in language and in life, we do to become who we are. We interract with the language around us to create our own language identity-the accents, the choice of words, even the grammar. I like that idea. My brother retains his Lower East Side accent even though he lives in Florida now while I decided in high school (I can still remember that decision) to lose it and my language is now more mainstreamed , even though I live on the Upper West Side, not very far from the old neighborhood. I created my own language identity.

And so for consumers. Today, enabling people to create their own identities may be the Next Big Thing in design and innovation. The iPod is really a set of tools to allow you to build your own personal music library. Cell phones allow you to shape your own communication system. Ditto for MySpace.

Identity goes was beyond mass personalization, which is a passive concept. It is much more in tune with CK Prahalad’s co-construction ideas.

Identity, the next step after experience. I like that. I think that will be the topic of my speech tomorrow at Peter Lawrence’s @issue conference in NYC.

Reader Comments


May 10, 2006 4:27 PM

That's probably why the final step in Pine/Gilmore's _The Experience Economy_ was "transformations". Their argument is that an experience that transforms someone's identity is more powerful than an ephemeral one...makes sense to me.

Design Crux

May 10, 2006 4:29 PM

I've been talking about identity as part of designing desirable products for a while now. Trying to understand "experience," one needs to understand the whys and hows. For example, buyers can choose one brand to fit a "work" identity, and a very different brand when out with their close friends.

The user hasn't switched, they are using brands to design different identities. Identity isn't the next step -- it is the reason for and lens through which users experience products and services.

The three elements users co-create are identity, benefit, and emotion.

Tamara Giltsoff

May 11, 2006 11:31 PM

There was talk today at the conference about sharing identities ie, designing mechanisms to share with your social network. Yep.

I would also add *comparing* to the mix ie, building 'identity envy' into the design of experiences - mechanisms to compare and evaluate against others in a social group. Flickr Contacts does this well... You build an enviable Contacts list and, even better, the 'hot' contacts (ie, people who are great photographers or anthropologists) comment on YOUR pictures. You then feel good about yourself and gain some sort of social status/power.

“ … power is not an attribute or possession of a single person but is characteristic of human relating- power arises between us in our relationships” – Norbert Elias

Enjoyed the conference. And meeting you.

RitaSue Siegel

May 12, 2006 12:16 PM

It's OK to quote your wife, especially if she is brilliant. David Brown, former president of Art Center once said, "People express themslves through what they own, where they live and what they value." I think that's a relevant quote, and it was in my book Design? Of course I know what that is.

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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