FEATURE : Experience control—the difference between success and failure

Why does a very cool, contemporary, high-end spa in Utah succeed and a very cool, contemporary, high-end community in Baltimore fail? Both are well planned, stylish, and unique. Both attract lots of attention. So why is Amangiri filled to capacity while The Overlook at Clipper Mill recently declared bankruptcy?

The difference? Experience control.

A mile off the main road and well into the desert, the Amangiri experience is carefully controlled to shut out the distractions of the world so that visitors can glory in the quiet magnificence of the setting. The resort blends beautifully into the ruggedly gorgeous Southwestern landscape. When you first arrive, no less than five people welcome you at your car, escort you around the premises, and then to your room. Every detail—from the pillows carefully arranged on sofas to spacious bathroom windows that frame the landscape—says, “Relax, we’re attending to your needs.” Tipping is not allowed and the only time a guest needs to think about money is when paying the bill at check out.

The Overlook at Clipper Mill is a community of  modern contemporary homes with wooded views and the latest in sustainable design. The site created quite a buzz in the local media and hundreds of visitors toured the model home. I know, I was one of them. I discovered that many of my friends also took the tour and were tempted. But not a single one of us took the plunge. The Overlook is perched at the top of a hill bordering a park, but a cluster of new, graceless townhomes is prominently visible from the south side—not exactly the view that will appeal to a contemporary homeowner. Although the park offers a pleasant green backdrop on the north side, it has a long-standing reputation for crime—not a quality that inspires the new home buyer.

The message? Good design doesn’t guarantee success. You have to think beyond the design and control the experience.