Defining XP: What it is (and a bit on what it’s not)
The experiential world doesn’t have neatly defined edges. For some, it may represent “party planning” and the custom invitations, floral arrangements and DJ booths that come with that role. For us, experiential (or XP) is the magic that happens at the intersection of art, science and impact. Whether driven by a creator, a brand, an artist or an organization, XP encompasses the events and experiences that drive engagement and grow communities. It’s all about building connections. But let’s give it a true definition.
Ex·pe·ri·en·tial (/ikˌspirēˈen(t)SH(ə)l/, adjective): Involving or based on experience and observation.
This can look like:
- Creator-driven experiences (Burning Man)
- Immersive entertainment including VR and AR (Magic Leap 2 was just announced)
- Festivals of all kinds (from food fests to SXSW and beyond)
- Conferences and industry gatherings that have broader consumer appeal (CES, Cannes Lions and maybe NFT.NYC?)
- Retail experiences and the evolution of brick and mortar
- Cultural moments (the Met Gala)
- Awards shows and their surrounding festivities (the Oscars, duh)
- Sporting events (from the crowd-pleasing US Open to one of our all-time favorites, the Field of Dreams game)
- Innovative product launches
- Art as experience (and we’ve seen both the good and the bad)
… we could go on, but hopefully this helps paint a picture.
Beyond experiences like these…
Many people hear “experiential” and go straight to “marketing.” And they’re not wrong! We’ve seen some super innovative and successful experiential marketing activations, like:
Stranger Things: The Experience splits attendees into groups through a maze of escape rooms. After battling Demogorgons in the Upside Down, guests enter the Mix-Tape — a room full of themed food and beverages, a functional arcade and the Byers’ living room. And, of course, there’s plenty of merch. This “exit through the gift shop” strategy keeps guests on site after the adventure is over. This way, fans not only post their ice cream cones and new Hellfire Club t-shirts to social but rave about the experience as well.
Jurassic Bar, a new pop-up at Chicago’s Replay Lincoln Park, is an immersive experience for Jurassic Park fans. First, they enter the island of Isla Nubar and encounter an array of dinosaurs, custom-built vehicles, and island foliage, then stay for themed trivia and cocktails.
World of Barbie, inspired by the iconic doll’s aesthetic, features life-size installations, including her famous dream house, TV studio, airline, and camper van. Barbiecore (the hot-pink-forward fashion trend of the summer) fueled Forever21’s Barbie Dream- House-inspired launch, and the buzz keeps growing for the highly anticipated 2023 Barbie movie, directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.
Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience is a new family-friendly immersive experience scheduled to debut at Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park on October 22. Featuring fan-favorite moments from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts series, visitors will wander through the Forbidden Forest, encountering magical creatures and cast their own spells along the way.
Of course, XP is also a big business.
As we all know, XP has gone through unprecedented upheaval in the last two years — and the industry has responded with admirable creativity and resilience, adapting to the ever-fickle realities and necessary pivots. And we’ve come out the other side even stronger. In fact, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the industry is hopping because we all still feel like we were just released from quarantine jail.
Yet, the subjective power of face-to-face (or even screen-to-screen) connection, interactivity, and experience is often overshadowed by the overwhelming and well-established objective power of social media and digital analytics. That’s where the numbers come in:
- Consumers are now 10-15% more likely to upgrade or personalize their experiences. (Experiential Trends)
- 52% of survey respondents believe investment in in-person events will increase in the future. (Content Marketing Institute)
- An incredible 85% of consumers say they’re more likely to buy after participating in experiences and events. (Finance Online)
- 74% of event professionals surveyed agreed that data drives their decision-making process. A study concluded that using data to make event decisions will move to the forefront. (Endless Events)
Our thesis on successful XP
We believe that the best XP — the XP that really makes a mark on the industry, that captures hearts and minds and inspires wows around the world — is designed with art, science and impact working hand in hand.
Art + Science + Impact = XP
What does that look like? When developing an experience — whether an art exhibit or a product rollout — good creators consider how they want to make their audience feel or act as a result of having undergone the experience (this is the impact).
They also consider audience data (the science), such as:
- Location, whether IRL or virtual
- How they prefer to consume content
- What motivates them to engage
- What motivates them to stay engaged
But all those data points only get you so far. After digesting them and putting together the best data-driven strategy possible, something else takes over (that’d be the art).
The most successful experiences have moments for independent discovery and response built in. They have elements that the audience can jump off from and create their own story. Great experiential creativity makes smart, strategic decisions about the execution of artistic ideas.
One thing is for certain: the experience economy — where what we do is seen as more valuable than what we own — is thriving, and XP is leading the way.