The Good-Pain and Branded-Pleasure of Paris


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Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone in Paris spoke English reasonably well?

Mussels in Paris
Whenever I visit Paris, I stay in the same hotel. There is a restaurant near the hotel that I never miss – they specialize in mussels.

When I look for lunch, I am always attracted by the seductive photos of mussels outside the restaurant. I don’t hesitate for a moment: my legs follow my heart into the restaurant. Old pictures haunt the walls, the founder smiling fondly surrounded by piles of mussels. The interior decoration is simple, bright and clean; and the atmosphere is relaxed. Everything predicts that I’ll have a perfect Parisian dining experience.

Unfortunately, the menu is in French and I know only “bonjour” and “merci”. Lucky for me, the menu has some photos, so by pointing out a photo to a waiter, I can order the set menu. When I grasp the first mussel in my fingers and take the small piece of meat from its shell — wow, I’ve come to the right restaurant for mussels that are fresh and unimaginably tasty.

I look around at the other tables, no surprise, almost every table is having mussels . . . but their mussels are different. Mine are steamed; theirs are in cream, with curry, with sauces I don’t recognize. I’m envious as I suspect that theirs are tastier than mine, so I ask the waiter for the names of their dishes so I can order them on my next visit. As you might expect, the waiter shrugs – he speaks very little English. I understand that he can’t help me from his facial expression.

And so, I order the same set menu every time I dine there and enjoy the same steamed mussels. Let’s be honest, I am a satisfied customer, but I can’t resist staring at the French guys sitting at the next table who are enjoying their mussels with mysterious toppings. Poor me. It would be wonderful if everyone in Paris spoke English reasonably well.

If you think improving ‘foreign language capability’ is important for Paris to be more attractive to tourists; you might be wrong. The fact is, if the people in Paris were speaking fluent English, Paris would become less Parisian. The city would offer less brand differentiation, while at the same time tourists wouldn’t be happier (satisfaction), nor would they be compelled to return to (revisit) or to refer Paris (referral). In other words, for tourism, ‘good English’ is no good and ‘poor English’ is good for Paris. Not convinced?

This controversial fact is supported by evidence from research on global city visiting experiences covering ten branded cities. ‘Foreign language capability of residents’ was rated as the most severe pain peak among all 36 attributes and touch-point experiences throughout the entire Paris visiting experience.. However, its importance in driving satisfaction, revisits, and referrals was ranked 27th, 34th, and 33rd respectively out of a total 36 attributes and touch-point experiences. In other words, despite the painful experience it causes, ‘foreign language capability of residents’ is unimportant to making tourists ‘feel good’, driving them to visit again or referring Paris to their friends.

On the other hand, ‘Foreign language capability of residents’ was ranked number seven out of 36 attributes in driving brand differentiation. All things being equal, if the residents of Paris improved their English, Paris would be perceived by visitors as less differentiated. Improving English capability won’t do any good and may even be harmful to Paris as a branded city. It is a ‘Good-Pain’.”

“Oooh, you’re going to Paris!” Whenever I tell anyone I am going to visit Paris, without exception, this is the response I get. This phenomenon is more obvious with women. Why? I suspect that ‘Paris’ is shorthand for ‘romance’. Our imaginations create our own private love stories about romantic Paris. If you’ve been to Paris, you have visited the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and Musée du Louvre. Each is unmatched in beauty. Yet, in my opinion, they are not adequate to drive our love affair with Paris; they are incapable of making us return again and again. There must be something else to explain the envy when someone replies “Oooh, you’re going to Paris!”

For me, it is the street-side cafes, the familiar-seeming avenues, the unique character of each of the twenty districts (arrondissements). What could more vividly and concisely describe Paris than the people sitting, smoking and chatting along the sidewalk outside the cafes? They illustrate the ultimate luxury – spending their time doing nothing. The people who walk around this “walkable” city are good-looking enough to compose a beautiful postcard of Paris; psychologically, I feel wonderful to “see and be seen”, to be part of this group of unknown and assorted people. I believe that these branded-pleasures reflect the brand values of Paris – romantic, relaxed and beautiful and drive my, and most people’s, revisits.

No one is able to describe Paris fully; so my personal views are biased. Statistically, the respondents of the global city visiting experience research in 2010 rated ‘city landscape and architecture’ to be the highest pleasure peak of their Paris visits; this rating topped all nine other global cities. I could combine the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Louvre, with the cafes, the arrondissements, and of course, the Parisians, to complete the puzzle of Paris as a top-notch branded city and to defend its top ratings in ‘city landscape and architecture’ as Paris’ ‘Branded-Pleasure’. Paris is romantic, relaxed, and beautiful.

Mandatory Elements for the Creation of a Successful Brand
Paris created significant pleasures and pains for the visitors who took the global city experience survey. The emotion curve [1] of Paris has a large pleasure-pain gap. Visitors to Paris enjoyed the best ‘city landscape and architecture’ among all ten branded cities surveyed, while they suffered from one of the worst ‘foreign language capability of residents’ we measured.

Branded-Pleasure is a pleasurable feeling generated from an attribute, sub-process or touch-point of an experience that reflects or carries the values of a brand (brand values). Branded-pleasure is the core element of every branded experience; a memorable branded experience must offer significant branded-pleasures—i.e. pleasure peaks that reflect your brand values.

Good-Pain is a painful feeling generated from an attribute, sub-process or touch-point of an experience that does not reflect or carry the brand values, or reflects or carries the values of a brand but is negative correlated (such as the ‘Poor English’ for Paris). By allowing and accelerating the good-pains, the resources saved can support and further enhance the significant branded-pleasures.

In the following section, “New York as a Brand: Great Cities are Great Brands“, Marco De Veglia perceives the Big Apple as a brand. We perceive a city in the same way we perceive a brand—a city is a brand.


1. The Emotion Curve was invented and first put into practice by Sampson Lee in 2006. It is one of the experience assessment and management tools of the U.S. patent-pending Branded Customer Experience Management Method registered by Global CEM. Emotion Curves map the customer emotions generated at each touch-point or sub-process and link them to form a curve reflecting the perceived experience across the entire customer lifecycle (covering all touch-points at stages of pre-purchase, at-purchase, and post-purchase) or at a specific touch-point (e.g. retail, call center, website). Unlike conventional approaches, which focus on enhancing efficiency and are process-centric, emotion curves represent genuine customer feelings by addressing emotions and the five senses in a natural time sequence from an experience perspective. It is a truly customer-centric experience assessment and management method. The data represented by emotion curves is derived from a statistically significant number of X-VOC surveys and from the experience ratings for each touch-point or sub-process, and evaluated by different target customer segments. The definitions and selection criteria for touch-points and sub-processes are based on vigorous scientific research methods and sequential steps. An Emotion Curve shows how customers perceive an experience. It is a powerful tool for creating a branded customer experience strategy. Furthermore, with a simple curve, from CEO to receptionist, in the boardroom or in the mailroom, everyone in a company can easily understand and communicate customer experience levels using a common graphical language.

This article is retrieved from a document “Total Customer Experience (TCE) for Branded Cities”. The document is composed of five sections: personal travel stories in the sections contributed by three of our international partners, Marco De Veglia from Italy, Brownell O’Connor from Ireland, Ro King from the United States, and our operations director Alice Tse from Hong Kong.

Section 1: The Good-Pain and Branded-Pleasure of Paris
Section 2: New York as a Brand: Great Cities are Great Brands
Section 3: Dubai: Belly Dancing, the Arabian Desert, and the TCE Model
Section 4: I Love Amsterdam; Mainland Chinese Love Hong Kong
Section 5: Paris 2011: The New Total Customer Experience (TCE)


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