Innovate The Boring: How To Make Functional Services Into Memorable Experiences

Events advisor and experience designer Andrew O’Loughlin builds on his Firestarter talk from Campfire 4: The Difference Between Services And Experiences by diving a little deeper into how we can “innovate the boring” and flip functional services into fantastic experiences.

In 2009, Air New Zealand’s in-flight safety video was like everyone else’s. A necessary formality of every flight, that no-one listened to and most actually actively ignored.

But as part of an intentional shift to making the experience of flying more enjoyable, Air New Zealand turned this formality into something they are now famous for.

The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made by Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand’s safety videos have amassed over 100 million views just on the airline’s official YouTube channel. The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made has around 20 million of them, and the latest even more than that. Not bad for a series of health and safety videos!

Innovating The Boring

Photo courtesy of Air New Zealand

These in-flight safety videos are a great example of what marketing guru Dan Gregory calls “innovating the boring”. This is a valuable way to turn your functional services into memorable, shareable experiences: to transform the functional into the fantastic.

Innovating Seamless Into Super

Photo courtesy of Air New Zealand

With the customer services we all provide, there are often necessary administrative or logistical elements that need to be provided or navigated. Although these are necessary in the experiences you provide, perhaps you can try and “innovate the boring” of these necessary touchpoints by turning them into something more interesting.

We all strive to provide seamless services these days. Satisfying, easy and frictionless are all fine – but they’re not going to make you famous. So if you’re looking at how you can change up your world, mashing a few worlds together might be the place to start. 

Innovation Is The Productive Application Of Creativity

Coldplay in concert, the audience wearing glow up Xylobands. Photo by Unsplash

Chris Martin, the lead singer of Coldplay, and his crew are well known for their creativity – not just within their music, but around it as well. One great, productive application of their creativity was Xylobands: wristbands that can be controlled remotely to light up on cue. These became a feature across their tours, lighting up stadiums around the world. 

Xylobands were developed by the band as a way to light up their shows – and their fans. 

The worlds of sport and entertainment converge more often than not these days, and as my team enjoyed the Sydney Coldplay concert, the seeds of an idea were sown.

Working through the planning phases of a Nike running event at the time, Chris and the band helped us to solve one of our most fundamental logistical problems: how to move 10,000+ young people into groups, in different places at different times, on cue and in sync, safely in a noisy dark park, and in a way that respected them rather than treating them like a herd of cattle. Could we maybe even, in keeping with the goals of the experience, actually surprise and delight them?

We adopted Coldplay’s Xylobands and used them to alert the runners to warm up, move to their start line, and light up as they ran around the park. This replaced the normal (read: boring and ignored) solution of repetitive announcements and instructional signage with personal highlights across their experience.

So How Can You Innovate The Boring?

There are many ways you might apply this mindset, but a quick trick to try and make the essential more entertaining and meaningful is to pair something fun and important with something boring. 

Markos Aristides Kern is on a mission to make the world more active using the power of gamification. While kids being physically active shouldn’t be boring, some kids will see it that way compared to the world of video games.

So Marcos has come up with some cool ways to have more fun with physical activity. His company Fun With Balls GmbH, or, fuses sports with technology to create the best and most enjoyable active sports products there are, making what can be pretty functional into something truly fantastic.

There are many examples of innovative experiences, but keep in mind that many have come from a boring place.  So let’s keep innovating the boring, turning those necessary services into meaningful experiences.

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