As mall developers, operators and marketers try to figure out their future in terms of experience, part of the conversation will inevitably turn to technology. And what the industry’s movers and shakers should keep in mind as they chart their course is that when it comes to creating popular consumer experiences, you can’t always start with technology. Instead, borrow a cue from business thought leader Simon Sinek and “To start with Why†
Technology without the ‘why’ can be costly – a lesson even the world’s most famous brands learn every day.
Take social media giant Facebook (now known as Meta), which bought virtual reality company Oculus for $2 billion in 2014 and has since left its abysmal marketing resources and money behind, while so far lacking massive consumer interest. awakened.
Or consider the heavily funded augmented reality startup, Magic Leap. Like Facebook’s Oculus, it’s another technology with incredible potential and significant financial investment that struggles to find its purpose after more than seven years of trying.
Billions of dollars have been invested in these technologies to date with little measurable ROI.
Why is this important for malls? Because I believe they are entering a period of experiential transformation that will shape their next 10 years. And as malls look to increase engagement, visits and dwell time, technology-first companies will line up to sell them solutions promising to draw large crowds.
But without knowing the ‘why’, these solutions won’t work so easily, and malls simply can’t afford to take such an approach because they don’t have infinite marketing budgets and don’t have seven years to spend. What she can doing is solving the “why” with a little counter-intuitive thinking and a backward, but proven, approach that looks like this:
- Start with the result you want to create.
- Develop radical creative ideas to help achieve this.
- Identify the technologies you need.
- Create emotional content.
- Deliver the experience.
It’s an approach I first used in 2004 when I helped MTV transform broadcasts like the Video Music Awards. My job was to work with the network, production and musical artists to develop and deliver content to more than 50 life-size video screens in a 360-degree arena. I didn’t focus on how we were going to do it. I focused on the result we wanted to create.
Many of my colleagues on the broadcast saw LED screens as a place for eye candy and pushed to start with technologies that delivered canned images to the screens. The word “gak” was used a lot behind the scenes in broadcasts as a term for screen content, which I detested.
While they did that, I imagined using LED screens for narrative stories and emotional connections. I imagined musical performances would be more powerful, memorable, and emotional for the audience—and more valuable to the performers, MTV, and its advertisers.
What would create a more emotional connection with music fans? Animated clip art and stock footage gawk (cringe!) into the video screens or mind-blowing, three-story versions of their musical heroes in an experience the fans felt immersed in?
To push my radical vision of a resistant industry, I had to be a disruptor. Ultimately, I built a career developing radically creative ideas, content and technologies that evoked audience emotions and generated revenue. This approach has helped businesses in nearly every major entertainment industry achieve success for the past 16 years, including broadcasts, concerts, movies, streaming and cruise lines. People in each of these sectors were successful because they were willing to rethink the way they approached content and technology to create emotionally powerful customer experiences.
As malls try to figure out how to hyper-transform their experiential futures, the people who develop, operate and market them will have to learn and master this backwards approach. They will have to remind themselves that the experience is the innovation. It is the catalyst for emotional connection and business success.
Steve Jobs said it best: “You have to start with the customer experience and work your way back to the technology.”
—Robb Wagner is an experiential artist and the founder of Stimulated-Inc., a creative studio specializing in experiential transformation for globally recognized brands such as Disney, Viacom and Carnival Cruise Line, among others.