Meet the Brand Builders

If you count the decade he spent throwing parties in his parents’ Detroit basement, Geoff Renaud has been organizing events of some kind for 30 years. And while his early career was focused on music — he toured with the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, worked with Prince, and counts Coachella founder (and fellow XLISTER) Paul Tollett as a mentor — his more recent work is focused on cutting-edge tech. Under the umbrella of creative agency Invisible North, which he co-founded with Amber Ward, Geoff has plunged into the metaverse and fully embraced the wild world of Web3. Not only does he count blockchain companies like Coinbase, Ledger, and Algorand as clients, but he also helps more traditional brands think about experiential from a less centralized perspective.

“People are spending more and more time online and in gaming environments. Sustainability is important. Amazing tech is coming out and compounding fast,” he says. “A client might come to us and say, ‘We really want to do this event,’ and we’ll say, ‘Sure. Of course. Let’s get that done. But also, let’s think about what a more holistic solution looks like. How can this experience expand?’”



Geoff’s willingness to experiment is just one part of the special sauce that makes Invisible North so successful. “We’ve got deep roots in building experiences at the cross section of culture and technology, but we’re also strategists,” he says. “We’re solving business problems first.”

Existing at the intersection of art and commerce is a common thread for our XLIST Brand Builders and the experiential agencies brands like Warner Bros., Disney, Nike, and Coca-Cola call on again and again to transform their IP into magical experiences. Whether they’re creating the latest iteration of Harry Potter’s wizarding world, like ThinkWell Media’s Thomas Jakobsen, or staging an immersive 1950s drive-in theater experience for the season finale of Lovecraft Country (see Factory 360’s Zoe Ganch), their superpower is the ability to strike the right balance between business and creativity, to zoom in and out between what brands want and what the audience expects, so the end result feels authentic and surprising. 

This dynamic group of Brand Builders also includes: Coltrane Curtis and Lisa Chu, whose creative agency Team Epiphany pioneered influencer marketing; Joe Silberzweig and Adam Richman, whose business model for Medium Rare was built on a partnership with Shaquille O’Neal; Trish Rexroth, Chief Creative Officer for OBE; and Jeremy Hodges, who founded Project Art Collective at the age of 24.


XLIST 2023: The Brand Builders

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For Joshua Wexler, co-founder (and self-described Chief Executive of Fun) of Pure Imagination Studios, it’s about harnessing technology to enable audiences to go even deeper into the worlds they know and love.

Joshua — who has worked with some of the biggest brand names in the world: Star Wars, Spider-Man, Mortal Kombat, LEGO, MARVEL, Bob the Builder, Kung-Fu Panda, Shrek, Hero Factory, NASCAR, The Justice League, Batman, The Simpsons, Bionicle… and the list goes on — embodies all the creativity, business savvy, and nimbleness you would expect from such an impressive resume. 

“I can imagine one day going to an empty field in Kansas, for example, and putting on a pair of glasses and I’m there in Middle Earth. I get to walk through the Shire and meet some hobbits and battle some orcs — but I’m actually out in nature doing it,” he says. “Or you wake up and Buzz Lightyear is running around the room with you, telling you to wake up and sitting with you at breakfast.”

But, Joshua adds, “Everybody has to remember too, it’s show business. The way we approach everything here is, we have to look at everything both ways. Every creative decision has to be backed up by the appropriate business decision. And every business decision needs to be backed up by a creative decision.”

As someone who works with very established narratives and characters, he emphasizes that teamwork is key. “A lot of companies may take an approach that they know this space, so ‘let the experts do their job’… [but] we welcome open discussions,” he says. “We’re incredibly collaborative in that regard.” On the other hand, he’s also not afraid to say no. “If it doesn’t check both boxes for us, we don’t wanna do it.”


Zoe, who has a long history at agencies before Factory 360, also emphasizes the importance of creating an authentic experience through a business lens. “You set your experience objectives, you analyze the market landscape, and then you guide the creativity through those filters.”

She’s also adept at zooming in and out, weighing the client’s needs with the audience’s demands. Increasingly, Zoe says, the latter include environmental, social, and economic sustainability. “Whether it’s inclusive marketing practices or sustainable practices, or finding ways to give back to minority-owned businesses, it can no longer be an afterthought. It has to be woven into that narrative the brand is telling.”

A recent success story for Zoe and Factory360: Meta Small Business Studios, a five-city tour in support of mom-and-pops. “In each city, the doors were flooded with small businesses looking to uplevel their online presence, walking away with new strategies, new product photography, or new local connections,” she says. “The cherry on top was working with Eco-Set to completely repurpose all of the fabrication and furniture post-tour.”

While it can sometimes seem at odds with sustainability, with its more-is-more ethos, technology can also be a path to less waste. For example, when SeaWorld tasked Thomas with creating the world’s largest aquarium while minimizing wildlife in captivity, the solution came in the form of media on a massive scale. “It’s an amazing accomplishment of different technologies coming together to make a film where you basically have a 360-degree screen over 200 meters long,” he says. “It’s like 10 IMAX screens next to each other.”


Still, Thomas’s goal isn’t just to use technology for technology’s sake. The question he’s constantly asking himself:
Could I make it simpler so it’s even more impactful? “I want people to forget the how,” he says. “It’s okay if they talk about it afterward, but when they’re in it, they should feel the why.”

Ultimately, it’s a balancing act: between the how and the why, the business and the creative, the brand and the audience. And leading it all are the Brand Builders.

Join us in XP Land. A community for experiential creatives and experience-makers, brand leaders and IP-owners, space stewards and venue visionaries — all of those in the business of epic gatherings and live, immersive storytelling.

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Experiential Is Everything

XP Land is for experiential creatives and experience-makers, brand leaders, and IP-owners, space stewards and venue visionaries — all those in the business of epic gatherings and live, immersive storytelling.