The Future of CX: Content Experience Is Probably Not What We Think It Is.
Never make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion.
The above quote is an anonymous one, yet it has been etched into the mainstream discourse on human beings and their social well-being. One of the many reasons for the prominence of the quote is that it addresses a common issue in human cognitive behaviour — making important, yet unfounded, decisions based on impulse. But what does temporary emotion really mean? Are we not naturally inclined to have the same emotions in the same situations? Are some emotions not more temporarily pronounced when we are faced with certain decisions? More importantly, how does this all factor into the consumption decisions that we make?
What is Content Experience, Really?
Content experience (CX) is a term that is commonly used in contemporary content marketing spheres. Due to the blurred lines that define what the concept is supposed to mean, a lot of people have either not caught on to it or just don’t care enough. In essence, CX describes the pathways, platforms, and consumption streams in which content can be consumed.
While this definition is true, several platforms and discussions seem to show a large gap between several aspects of content experience itself, and how the elements of this experience are supposed to affect the consumer. Most of these discussions only scratch the surface, by defining the basics of content experience and how it is supposed to work. But for the marketing strategy that it is, the conventional discussions on content experience fail to define the pathways to human decisions that these content constructs (should) have.
User Experience-User Interface-Content Experience: A Three-Man Band.
While mainstream perspectives on CX define it based on accessing, consuming, and engaging with content put out by a brand, it could also be defined based on a functional comparison to user experience (UX) features. Emily Stevens, a writer for Career Foundry, a content marketing platform, defines UX as “an interaction that a user shares with a product or a service”. This implies that UX defines the entirety of the experience from an operational standpoint, while the user interface (UI) summarizes the experience from a visual standpoint. Content experience quantifies both of these experiences on a scale of the content that is being propagated and how well it is propagated. For this reason, there can be functional comparisons between both UI/UX and CX, on the basis of each of them having elements that shape the experience of the user — considerations of ease of use, operational pathways, appearance, and most importantly, the feelings that are incurred through the process of use.
Still in the light of reviewing UI/UX in relation to CX, one of the often undermined factors is how well the latter complements the former. CX serves to highlight the intersectionality that user experience and interface share on a cognitive level in the sense that user interface is, in fact, a part of the user experience, because the appearance of the product very much affects our perception of products in terms of how we feel;
(a. About them, and
(b. While using them.
A great analogy is the use of a new bicycle; while the wheels may roll smoothly and the grip on the handle may be convenient, enhancing user experience, the bright multi-colour combination of the bicycle and the shiny silver rims may also enhance the experience of the user, even though these features are not operational. Essentially, the entirety of the experience encompasses how it looks and how it works. This is the bridge that CX enhances, the operationality of products based on the functions that content such as text, images, etc., can provide, as well as the visual imprint that said content can mentally and virtually provide.
The Complexity of ‘Experience’.
In reference to the discussions made in this article, it is important to highlight the different contextual meanings that ‘experience’ has. The more mainstream definition of the word translates to contact, observation, or perception of an event or element. The Merriam Webster Dictionary describes experience as “the process of living through an event or events…”.
However, several of the mainstream perspectives on experience, especially in the ramifications of business and product fail to understand the cognitive facet to experience — the emotional impressions of product use that quantify the relevance of the said product.
Typically, it may be easy to assume that the only emotional metric that should be associated with a good product is happiness. However, happiness and anger are just two ends of the emotional spectrum that entail a wide range of cognitive behaviour. Content experience specifically addresses the brand tone and how it is portrayed to its primary audience. The tone, in this case, varies by a large degree across different brands, and ‘happy’ hardly encompasses the targeted tone for these companies, either in the form of brand language or through the experience that they look to incur in their audience.
On the happy side of the tone spectrum (that term was just invented, tone spectrum), we have the more extroverted and colourful feelings of comical, witty, friendly, and playful.
No, they’re not all the same thing.
And they are respectively emulated by the brands; Old Spice, Dollar Shave Club, Payless and PiggyVest, and Skittles.
Somewhere in the middle, we have aggressive-inclined brands like Harley-Davidson and Gatorade. We also have the inspirational tone of Nike and the uplifting and confidence-stirring feel of Dove beauty products, as well as the cordial and formal tone of news companies like CNN or BBC. On the far side with the more morose tones, we have brands like funeral homes, charity organizations, etc., that deviate from generally positive themes owing to the less-positive themes under which they operate.
In summary, there are brands with tone languages on one side, and there are cognitive dispositions that these brands are supposed to stir in their audience on the other side. What would you say is the bridge between them? Several things actually. But at the foundation of everything, it’s just a basic content experience.
Emotions and Consumption
Under Illouz’s theory of emotions, as stipulated by sociologist Eva Illouz in her book, Emotions as Commodities: Capitalism, Consumption, and Authenticity, emotions are primary drivers in consumption through the channels of personal dispositions in consumers, perceptions of societal norms, and incurred opinions on the product through marketing, branding, and content experience.
Furthermore, through colour psychology, product content, text font, visual designs, theme music, and several other facets of a wholesome content experience, human emotions can be appealed towards certain actions, regardless of the tone of the brand, and by extension, the emotions that are aimed at incurring.
In conclusion, regardless of what we think content experience is now, the future of CX would be strongly tilted towards the fundamental basis for experience — behavioural psychology and the different aspects of content experience that drive these behaviours.