In a lengthy interview for the podcast LUX & TECH, best-selling author of “The Experience Economy” Joseph Pine II claims COVID 19 has not changed the fundamental principle that sees experiences at the top of the economic value progression.

CARLO PIGNATARO: As we speak today, June, 2020, the world has suffered and is still suffering a major pandemic called COVID-19 and most countries in the world are slowly getting out of an unprecedented lockdown. Are we still in the experience economy, Joe?

JOSEPH PINE: Absolutely! The experience sectors of the economy in fact have been devastated by the lockdowns. The movies and the retail, the restaurants, the bars, the concerts, the plays and sporting events, they’re all basically gone. Now they’re finally starting to open up but they’ve been devastated and there’s even an article in the New York times a week and a half ago about…. is it the end of the experience economy because any place where to gather is not a place people want to be right now. But we still have our experiences, we didn’t give up experience. We are social beings who crave being around other people, and we are experience seekers.

We want to have experiences and goods and services are no longer enough.

So what’s happened during this Corona crisis is that our experiences have moved from the public to the familial. They’ve moved from out there to in here, they’ve moved from physical to digital.

Music streaming is booming. Movie TV streaming is booming. Video sharing is, is booming. All of those things are booming right now because we still want our experiences. In fact, we may have more time to be able to do that right now, but as things open up, yes, people will still want those physical experience because we are social beings.

You know, the Disneyland Shanghai opened up, several theme parks in Europe opened up down 25 to 30% capacity, but guess what? They were totally filled to that capacity because people want those experiences.

So I’m often asked, is it the end of the experience economy? And in fact it is absolutely not. It is just a momentary setback and physical experiences versus digital.

But the experience economy not only will come back, it has to come back because, as we’ve been saying again for over 20 years, goods and services are no longer enough to ensure economic prosperity. It is experiences that need to be there, and we therefore need to redesign our experiences and innovate in ways that will bring people back out, ensuring that they’re safe, obviously.

So ensuring that they’re safe and then bringing people back out because otherwise we’re going to have massive unemployment and, and economic dis-prosperity.

CARLO PIGNATARO: Yeah. And we may be at the beginning of a new experience economy enhanced, if you will, by technologies like VR and AR

JOSEPH PINE: I talk about that in one of my books “Infinite possibility, creating customer value in the digital frontier” that some of the most amazing experiences will be those that fuse the real and the virtual in some way.

And absolutely, that is a part of what is going to happen. There may be an acceleration of that as we’ve been used to doing, over the last few months, things more and more online.

CARLO PIGNATARO: Many luxury (and not only) companies have reacted to the pandemic helping society, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. I remember Giorgio Armani was the first in Italy to convert all his production plants to manufacturing medical overalls, LVMH also responded very quickly producing sanitizers and masks and many other brands and companies followed. In the very interesting paper you recently published you wrote “be human”. Is this what you mean?

JOSEPH PINE: That’s exactly it. We’re all in this together and not just locally, not just nationally, globally, we’re all in this together. And I think that the core response, the initial response that people need, companies need to make is to be human. That we are serving human beings. We needed to take care of our fellow human beings and therefore being human is the right thing to do. And that’s doing whatever we can to help people be safe, to help them feel safe, to help ameliorate the effects of the economic lockdown that we have and then to open up again,

CARLO PIGNATARO: What else can a company, let’s say a retailer, do in this time to prepare for an economic recovery we all hope for?

JOSEPH PINE: Well, I I’d say three things. Number one is you should be refreshing your places as you’ve got some time if you’re shut down. As simple as give it a new paint job, as simple as figuring out the right fixtures, get the lighting better, you know, whatever all those things might be.

But most importantly, do what I call safety theatre and safety theatre’s about figuring out first the processes and the places to ensure that people may catch the virus, but they’re not going to catch it from you, right? Make them see a demonstrated show to let them feel safe in your place. Not only we want to ensure safety, but we want to show it, that’s the theatre aspect of it. Again, it’s not being fake or phony.

Another way is to redesign your offerings. And this is a great opportunity to come up with new experiences, to go beyond just merchandising and retail stores, to really staging and engaging experiences, figure out what that is to create experiences that as we say in the new edition of the book that are robust, cohesive personal, dramatic and even transformative.

And then finally renew your capabilities. Take this time that has been given to us to be able to figure out what new capabilities you need to prosper in a post COVID world and I think one of the key things here is the digital aspects that we talked about.

So many retailers, to be specific to them again as you asked for it, so many retailers think “Okay, we’ve got this great store, we have wonderful interactions, look at the beauty of it” and then they have a website which is just product, product, product! It’s just merchandising, and they don’t take the time to let their virtual stores be as engaging as their physical stores. One of the things I’ve said to retailers for a long time and now I think it’s particularly appropriate is, if it is worth it for you to have a live sales associate work one on one with a customer in a store, guess what? It’s worth it to you to have a live sales associate work one on one with a customer online. Do that. Don’t think “we just are going to have a low cost channel where we’re gonna use chat bots and that sort of thing. No, but let your people open. So, you know, during this crisis, one jewelry store in China called Ideal, I thought they did a wonderful thing. When the lockdown came, and nobody’s coming to the stores anymore, what they did as the sales associates were still in the store, but they got onto Wechat and they started using their store as a showroom.

They started broadcasting the thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people. And then anytime somebody wanted to buy, they could get down to “okay, let’s talk one on one, right online” What a better shopping experience than just throwing up all your merchandise on there.


The full interview covers a variety of topics such as:

  • Experiences are NOT just nice and easy service
  • Experiences are time well spent
  • Experiences must be designed and staged
  • Experience must leave positive clues
  • Difference between Experiential Marketing and Marketing Experiences
  • Experiences are at the highest level of the economic progression
  • A theme helps create a memorable experience
  • Experience designers should take inspiration from theatre

The interview is available in all the podcast platforms below. If you enjoyed the content, please like it, share it and leave a review.

We’d also love to hear your feedback, to improve the quality of our work.

Thank you!

Carlo Pignataro

carlo pignataro


Author of "Sell With Style, The Ultimate Guide To Luxury Selling" - Luxury Sales & Client Experience Training.

You May Also Like

The dangers of a “No negativity allowed here” culture

” Have you bough it here?” and the golden after-sales opportunity.

Are you programmed to sell?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *