What is the future of retail and malls in the United States? With Amazon and online shopping growing, where does that leave physical retailers and all of the real estate they have traditionally occupied? What shops, attractions, and new experiences will fill the millions of square feet of empty retail space at malls and shopping centers? I shared my thoughts in this wide-ranging interview with Authority Magazine.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview where I answer the question:
“Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?“
A 2017 report by Credit Suisse predicted 25% of malls will go out of business by 2022 leaving millions of square feet of retail space empty. That will likely be accelerated by COVID-19. What will happen to all of that space? I predict that experiences will be a major part of the future of retail. Trampoline parks, indoor theme parks, go-kart family fun centers, and virtual reality games have already started to replace many department stores in malls. The new American Dream Mall in New Jersey is a look at the future of the country. It was originally designed to have 55% entertainment space and 45% retail space but has already pivoted to 70% entertainment space and only 30% retail space. Our 14 chain indoor family fun center currently has four locations inside malls. We plan to open more locations inside of malls in the coming years. Each location takes up the space of a large department store with over 50,000 square feet of rides, arcade games, dining, and more.
The importance of building a story brand and including narrative into marketing campaigns has been discussed for decades. The idea has made a resurgence recently and is more important than ever to stand out in a world that is full of ever increasing noise. I recently had the opportunity to interview Scott Swenson about his new book, “Follow The Story”. The book is a step-by-step guide on how to build story into every part of your attraction. Scott has been creating story driven attractions for over 30 years and was part of the team that created the Howl-O-Scream Halloween event at Busch Gardens Tampa. He discusses how to weave the story through every part of your experience, from marketing to merchandise. Although the conversation centered around themed attractions and haunted houses, the story brand framework can be applied to other industries as well.
“Follow The Story” is a great companion piece to “Building A StoryBrand” by Donald Miller. Donald helped bring back the concept of using narrative and the hero’s journey to the marketing zeitgeist. The book was first recommended to me by Cedar Fair’s CMO, Kelley Semmelroth, during a brainstorming session at Knott’s Berry Farm about expanding our Season Passholder base. Donald Miller’s content is highly actionable and helped clarify us clarify our messaging to both internal stakeholders and customers. I highly recommend the book for any marketer struggling with messaging, which is all of us at one point in time. Here’s the official description: “Donald Miller’s StoryBrand process is a proven solution to the struggle business leaders face when talking about their businesses. This revolutionary method for connecting with customers provides listeners with the ultimate competitive advantage, revealing the secret for helping their customers understand the compelling benefits of using their products, ideas, or services.”
Experiential marketing experiences are increasing in number and complexity. Some experimental marketing campaigns are nearly identical to paying attractions like pop-up museums, haunted houses, festivals, and carnival walkthroughs. How can the attractions industry and other types of companies use experiential activations to drive brand awareness, connect with consumers, and ultimately drive sales? Philip and I discussed the opportunities of this burgeoning medium in episode 29 of the “Marketing Your Attraction” podcast.
Experiential Marketing Podcast
Have you taken part in a great marketing activation or experiential experience that we didn’t discuss on the show? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. We are particularly interested in examples of theme parks, amusement parks, museums, and other types of attractions utilizing this type of marketing for discussion in a future episode.
“What about live streaming?” I said. Sean wasn’t sure what I meant. “Live stream the opening speeches during the event? We can easily do that.” he said. “No, live stream from the actual roller coaster train.” I replied. There was silence on the other end of the phone. A few weeks later, thanks to the help of over a dozen talented people, we were live streaming to multiple news broadcasts from the new HangTime roller coaster at Knott’s Berry Farm. Here’s how we did it:
During my four years at Knott’s Berry Farm, I have worked together with Sean Teegarden and his production team on dozens of photo and video shoots. From rides to water slides to food, we have captured the charm of Knott’s Berry Farm, but we had never live streamed from a coaster before. My main motivation for live streaming was to be more efficient during the hectic media events that would accompany the HangTime roller coaster opening. Our previous setups involved awkwardly swapping the SD cards out of the cameras (Usually GoPros) throughout the media events and sending over only the basic reverse point-of-view videos. That process was slow, clunky and often error-prone. We knew there had to be a better way.
The first challenge was mounting a camera on HangTime. Instead of opting for a small GoPro, Sean recommended using the much larger Panasonic GH5. The quality of the image from the GH5 is much better than the GoPro, especially in low-light night situations, and has removable lenses. The camera was the perfect choice to capture HangTime’s incredible LED lighting package. The next step for the live stream was figuring out how to mount the camera, batteries, microphone and wireless transmitter onto the coaster train.
I wrote this article about creating memorable moments for the June 2018 edition of Seasonal Entertainment Source (A free industry magazine for professionals in the seasonal attraction industry).
Create Memorable Moments – Elevate Moments At Your Attraction Into Memories
The most successful attractions in the industry are able to create memorable moments that frequently become lifetime memories for guests. What’s the special alchemy for turning memorable moments into lifetime memories? Prolific business writers Chip and Dan Heath explore this question in their latest book “The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact”. This article combines research with my real-world examples from the attractions industry.
One of the main methods the writers recommend for crafting these types of moments is called elevation. Elevation refers to experiences that rise above the routine to make you feel engaged, joyful, or motivated. Elevation is a natural component for attractions to lean into. Picture a heart monitor and imagine the jagged line on the monitor as your customer’s journey at your attraction throughout the day. So, how can you take your guests’ natural peaks and elevate the highlights of their day even higher? Attractions can raise elevation and create more memorable moments by boosting sensory appeal, raising the stakes, and breaking the script.Continue reading →
Theme Park Podcast For Attractions Industry Professionals
Philip Hernandez and I have teamed up to launch a new theme park podcast for professionals in the Attractions Industry, including owners, operators, marketers and more. Our goal is to make the “Marketing Your Attraction” theme park podcast essential listening for professionals from every part of the industry, including theme parks, haunted houses, escape rooms, family fun centers and more. Every episode starts with the news of the week before taking listeners on a deep dive into a different marketing topic and how it applies to the Attractions Industry. Philip and I have spent over a decade in the industry and bring a total of over 20 years of combined marketing experience to our conversations. Listen below or subscribe today using your favorite podcast player. I would really appreciate any and all feedback plus ideas for future show topics through Twitter or email.
Episode 7: The Impact of America’s Evolving Demographics
One of my favorite conversations from the podcast was from a recent episode about the evolving demographics of America. For the first time in human history, by 2035, people aged 65 and older will outnumber children under age 5 in the United States, according to U.S. Census projections. What does America’s evolving demographics mean for theme parks and the attraction industry? Philip and I discussed challenges and opportunities that these new demographic milestones will bring to the new industry. Will the young adults that make up the majority of guests at pop-ups, concerts, haunted houses and more continue to look for similar experiences when they are older? Will Museum of Ice Cream type pop-ups be created that appeal to adults that are 65 or older? I can easily imagine an “I Love Lucy” pop-up being incredibly successful in 2018 if executed correctly.
Served as the sole producer on this Knott’s Soak City sizzle video and B roll shoot. I hired the cast, crew and coordinated with all of the departments at the park to ensure a smooth shoot day. I also worked as an Assistant Editor on the piece, including selecting the music, and saw the project through to completion. The final video has been viewed over 200,000 times on social media and was the top performing paid social video of Knott’s Soak City’s 2017 summer campaign.
Created this video when tasked with coming up with a creative way to announce the release date of the new Voyage to the Iron Reef attraction. I co-directed, produced and wrote the spot. The production involved a cast of 100 extras, coordination with 10 different park departments and a crew of 10 people. The video received over 500,000 views through the Knott’s website and social media channels.
Co-producer and editor on a test animation for a pitch to networks for a TV show called Star Guardians. The entire production was done in-house in Los Angeles, California including all of the 2D/3D animation. Edited using Final Cut Pro.