Brand and retail consultancy Fitch’s Morgan Holt explains how to break down the concept of ’experience’ so it becomes a measured and codified asset, backed by data.

As chief strategy officer for Fitch, I have long wanted to ban the word ‘experience’. Over use has rendered it meaningless.

Every agency has repurposed it for their own use and, in the process of dozens of new meanings being created, its significance has been depleted.

A hundred years ago, it referred simply to something you saw; now, it’s even less distinctive.

I may have lost the battle to get the word banned, but instead have set out to give it a quantifiable, measurable meaning that will help retailers own their experience and create the impact they want.

Integrating experience and brand

What most retailers want is to connect with customers, their lives and how their lives are changing. However, when defining the value of this connection, ‘experience’ – or something like it – quickly becomes the focus; often perceived to mean they are not competing on price.

What retailers need to do is integrate experience into brand principles that guide how a brand can design its own distinctive experience and customer journey.

“Customers are driven by four psychological desires that guide their journey: comfort, belonging, independence or progress”

Fitch wheel

Unlocking the experience code

Within the retail landscape, customers are driven by four core psychological desires that guide their purchasing journeys: comfort, belonging, independence and progress. To connect authentically, they should feel confident they will satisfy one or more of these needs with a brand.

We identified 12 distinct ‘experience themes’ – each with its own unique set of emotions and characteristics that embody the four fundamental human needs. This psychological framework mapped against consumer data* creates a model that can guide a brand to create its own distinctive experience and unlock its full potential.

By selecting themes in keeping with their brand values, retailers start to generate a guide to their own distinctive experiences and the opportunities to truly meet the consumers’ needs.

The right themes blended with the brand positioning creates a unique experience signature.

Case study: Geely’s ‘un-car’

Chinese automotive manufacturer Geely wanted to create a totally new type of car that directly appealed to consumers who were rejecting traditional car manufacturers. In short, they wanted an ‘un-car’.

Using the experience themes data, Geely could understand that consumer expectations of automotives are fairly uniform, as shown in the illustration below. 


Car adverts often celebrate achievement and making your own rules, while their showrooms encourage (limited) exploration, with cavernous warehouses dedicated to a dozen product samples.

Consumers from all over the world, be it the US, Europe or Asia, have come to expect the same experience from a car company: exploration, breaking the rules and achievement.

“Geely needed to build away from these category expectations by adding something more unconventional”

As a brand that wanted to stand out, therefore, Geely needed to build away from these category expectations by adding something much more unconventional.

The overarching conventional theme remained ‘playground’, which signifies breaking the rules. Adding ‘kitchen’ to encourage self-expression and ‘stage’ to indicate showmanship and audience enjoyment created a signature image for the brand, which overturned automotive conventions.

The result was Lynk & Co, which became the fastest-selling car brand of all time in January 2019.

* What type of experiences 650,000 consumers expect from 23,000 brands globally across 257 categories


Morgan Holt is chief strategy officer at global retail design consultancy Fitch. He is responsible for leading Fitch’s strategic capability and developing its new thought leadership. He has directed and orchestrated teams across the Fitch global studio network, to deliver brand innovation and experience projects for clients across all dimensions: physical, human and digital. This includes; L’Oreal, Samsung, Circle K, Hyundai and Metro Bank.

Morgan has been instrumental in developing the Fitch ’experience themes’ thought leadership and framework codifying brand experience by connecting our design intuition to data.

Before moving agency-side, Morgan was director of innovation at the mobile phone company 3, and head of broadcast digital at Endemol.

Find out more about Fitch’s experience themes here.