Blurred Lines and the BS Meter:
Key Takeaways From the Entertainment Experience Evolution Conference
Integration and Engagement for the Next Generation
Retailtainer, Eatertainment, Phygital, Return on Experience. Hybrid concepts for the next generation of themed and location-based entertainment experiences were our big takeaways from almost every panel at the 2023 Entertainment Experience Evolution conference at LA Live. Representing everything from big brands and IP’s to fledging experiential startups, panelists spoke of the changing entertainment ecosystem, the need to engage guests on multiple levels, and needing to think ‘outside the box’ to provide people something more than just a _____ (movie/store/restaurant/sporting event). People want integrated experiences, and developers, creators, brands, and owners are seeing real value in blurring the lines between traditional disciplines to give consumers more of what they want in more integrated and dynamic ways.
To loosely paraphrase a message delivered by Garrick Brown of Brown Consulting in the opening keynote “Your Next Consumer: Understanding Gen-Z and Their Role in the Experience Economy:” despite spending a lot of time online, the upcoming generations have very high expectations, and the need, for more integrated, organic, real-life experiences. Oh, and as subsequently noted by a few panelists, Gen Z also has a strong ‘BS meter’ and can easily sniff out the fakes. And those bad reviews (or TikToks) can hurt. True integration can’t be an afterthought and must be authentic.
Integrated Approaches in Action
Additional hybrid themes that arose throughout the two days of sessions included shifting approaches to programming destinations and the idea that experiential elements can complement vs. compete. For example, The Food Hall Co. has found that there is ample room in the market when placed next to big chain restaurants operated by Darden Restaurants as they offer different experiences for different guests and have become mutually beneficial. Speakers also highlighted the idea that ‘more is more,’ for example in the case of Area 15 in Las Vegas which offers many layers and levels of engagement for a variety of guests. Additionally, the notion of ‘competitive socializing’ where the next generation of consumers are more interested in a dynamic shared experience and winning bragging rights than the physical stuff that collects dust on our shelves as we saw with Hijingo in London.
Entertainment Experience Evolution Takeaways
Lean into the vision of the destination, be bold, think outside the box creatively, and don’t compromise the final guest experience by cutting capital costs on the wrong things (like infrastructure to enable future programming).
However, while the conference touched on many aspects of these big ideas, it didn’t get into how to actually plan for and deliver authentically integrated projects.
How To Deliver Integrated & Authentic Experiences
The next generation of guests demand the next generation of destinations. To be successful, these projects necessitate a similarly integrated and authentic approach to project planning, management, design, and construction that can think outside the box and blur the lines of traditional phases and process. More than just ‘design’ or ‘build,’ projects benefit greatly by bringing constructability and means and methodology thinking into early concept phases. Additionally, there is tremendous value in partnering with the right fabrication partner early and leveraging their real know-how during design and cost estimating. Lastly, bringing in experienced end to end program management that drives early and ongoing alignment of teams and disciplines for comprehensive project delivery solutions is essential.
Beyond an integrated process, prioritizing the creative vision and guest experience as the guiding factor throughout project planning, design, build, and delivery is key. Alignment of all teams with this shared goal can both streamline the process AND put the most value into what guests see, do, and share with others, which is what really matters at the end of the day. Truly integrated and authentic processes lead to truly integrated and authentic experiences. Be bold, think outside the box, and find the right partners to guard and deliver your vision. Because that’s how you’ll pass the generational sniff test.
The Companies of Nassal is a suite of brands for the themed entertainment industry, offering full-service solutions to guide and deliver attractions, exhibits, events, and destinations around the world.
We transform experiences. From your idea to opening day, we take a different approach to building and delivering cultural and entertainment destinations. We do this by disrupting the traditional delivery process. Together, our passionate teams at Nassal, Lexington, and nFusion increase quality, optimize value, and streamline implementation. We build lasting relationships with our clients by relentlessly doing what’s right while having fun along the way. Over the last 40 years, we have helped create award-winning destinations for the leading brands around the world.