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Setting the right mood


SOMETIMES, the jobs for the future are already here like travel accompanist which is not the same as a tour guide, or political power-broker which has been around for a while but is assuming a project-based niche, depending on the incumbent group.

Another unconventional job in the “gig economy” can appeal to the younger set. A new occupation for the future (not yet advertised in classified ads) is called an “experience designer.”

The core skills consist of creating a custom-made ambience for customers by designing an artificial and temporary atmosphere. An interior designer may take care of the motif, accent pieces, and the look of a place. The experience designer adds mood sounds, costumes for the receptionists, and maybe even unusual smells and surprise guests that can enhance the experience in an event.

Commercially, the experience designer may work with an event planner for product launches and cultural transformation exercises. These may include soft thumping music along with mood walls and photo booths (now using a 360-degree shoot with a revolving camera).

This job of creating a unique experience combines the skill of a tour operator, interior designer, disc jockey, and a “do-I-have-to-explain-this-to-you” attitude.

Spas seem to have already stepped into this social architecture ahead of the curve. The experience offered is not just kneading the tired muscles or being given a body scrub, but getting into the whole wellness gig. A curtain separates the normal looking and well-lit reception area from the semi darkness of maybe a jungle (without mosquitoes) with the sound of rain on palm fronds, croaking frogs, and mating cicadas.

The ambient tones in spas seems specially recorded for them and consists of sound effects and mournful string renditions. Seldom will one hear any music one can hum — no Celine Dion, too distracting. Nature sounds or instrumental imitations of waves lapping the sands of time provide the right atmosphere to stimulate the pleasure points of the brain. Vocals, if any, consist of choral sighing and Urdu-sounding lyrics (They are not meant for karaoke fare.) The experience being offered by the semi-darkness (lit by flickering electric candles) and piped in music along with the smell of incense and a bowl of rose petals right under the hole where one’s face is snugly lodged to view them, is that of wading through a verdant field where the sound of outside traffic does not intrude.

Even going further on the experience approach are theme parks that create an imaginary world like “the happiest place on earth” in California and Florida. The parking lots are intentionally located far from visual reach to maintain the ambience. The trains to ferry guests from the parking lots to the entrance ensures that this distance is not seen as inconvenient. Not even the tall roller coasters allow the customer to peek over the walls and be reminded of his mundane location. And cartoon characters, called cast members, walk about in this imaginary world for photo opportunities with the visitors.

Still, a new twist in the theme park idea is the introduction of an adjacent store for souvenirs and meals which saves the tourist from lining up for entrances and rides. Just get the T-shirts and have coffee and you are on your way.

An artificial surrounding allows one to temporarily leave the reality of overdue reports and losses in crypto currency trading. Ambience sets the right mood. Is atmosphere-setting the same as creating a unique corporate culture in an organization?

Corporate culture is more of a continuing ambience, a mixture of expected behavior and nurtured values around some mission-vision statement — we like to have fun with our customers. This type of corporate ambience/culture is not limited to the entertainment industry. It can embrace service organizations as well, like hotels and management consultancies.

The job of experience designer should come in handy too in politics. Passing a controversial bill with strong headwinds of resistance needs to be accompanied by soothing sounds. (We have the votes, so go get a soapbox to stand on and do not bother us.) What about the sovereign right of the people? Please use another modifier.

Politics is an experience no different from being serviced in a dark room with the sound of jungle drums and… a feeling of being surrounded by cannibals.

Tony Samson is chairman and CEO of TOUCH xda

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