In today’s theme park and attractions industry, intellectual property, popular entertainment spanning the media spectrum, reigns supreme. I recently looked at some of the benefits of establishing a presence in location based entertainment from the IP Holder’s perspective.
By Louis Alfieri, Chief Creative Officer and Founder of Raven Sun Creative.
However, what about the challenges in the process? What should brand owners and theme park and attraction operators be aware of?
A strong match between an IP and an entertainment destination can extend brand engagement, vertically integrate both properties, drive revenue increases, and, furthermore, it can supercharge marketing for both brands.
That said, a marriage of IP and destination is hardly a sure thing. Consumer expectations run far higher for the adaptation of a cherished property, especially with mega-success of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter looming large in the public’s imagination. Navigating IP holder and owner / developer partnerships and contractual relationships requires a thorough knowledge of the landscape of LBE collaboration and an understanding of how to best achieve an outcome in line with the aspirations of all the participants.
So, what are the major concerns when it comes to building a fruitful collaboration between IP holder and developer?
1. IP holder and operator must find the fit
A mutually beneficial partnership is about a lot more than simply putting together two brands and waiting for chemistry to happen. There needs to be the determination that the participants’ goals, values, and expectations are aligned. The IP holder and owner / developer must share a cohesive vision. This should be of how their brands work together for mutual benefit.
Do both groups share an understanding of each other’s creative, financial, and growth goals? Do they both have plans in place to continue to support their respective brand initiatives well into the future?
Negotiating these details is a process that can take time, requiring relationship building, mutual respect, and a wide open ear.
2. Striking the balance
A collaboration between IP and a location based entertainment destination is made up of many moving parts. At the implementation level, schedules, budgets, approvals, and creative expectations need to be developed in sync. This requires clear communication and a strategic plan where goals and roles are well-defined. It also means having experienced hands at project management, creative, and technical bringing it all together.
IP holders are understandably protective of their characters, settings, and other story elements. LBE developers and operators have their own set of business and operational needs with an equally definitive sense of how to achieve them.
3. Mastering the art of adaptation
In the age of convergence, location based entertainment may be the preeminent medium of convergence. LBE blends countless arts and disciplines, and the contributions of writers, artists, technologists, engineers, tradespeople, and inventors to form its own unique category of experiential entertainment. Bringing an IP alive as an immersive destination demands a thorough understanding of the possibilities and necessities of the LBE medium. This is a different sort of storytelling. It is one where the guest is an empowered, integral part of the story, communally, in physical space.
The creative team needs to know the IP in order to create an experience that captures the essence of the brand, story, characters, and environments. The result needs to be true to the emotional legacy the guests and fans feel for the content.
The goal is to create an extension of the IP, a new story in a familiar world. It should be one that stands on its own and brings new dimensions and experiences to the brand.
Entertainment franchises evolve over time. They add new chapters and introducing new characters, settings, and storylines. A concern for operators is that an attraction themed after an IP should not look as if it has been left behind by the very property itself. Periodic refreshing\theming is of course fundamental. However, a large scale overhaul of a still-young attraction is wasteful and cost-prohibitive. It can also be detrimental to both brands’ bottom line and aspirational ROI.
Discussions between the IP holder and the developer of a location based entertainment should cover a number of things. These include long term plans for IP, area, zone, and a marketing plan. Unquestionably, technology will advance and new and innovative solutions will become available. These could be ones that were not an option during the initial development of the project or relationship. In these cases, it may be prudent to proactively develop creative solutions for minimizing the potential feeling of disconnect with an IP’s future. Disney’s upcoming Star Wars land, for instance, will introduce an all-new planetary setting, giving it the ability to exist in the same universe while providing some latitude for it to function as its own entity. Not every IP is going to offer the same sort of storytelling flexibility.
As much as possible, thought should be given in the planning stages to adaptability. It should be built into the very DNA of the experiential space.
A location based entertainment attraction is a form of artful and kinetic storytelling. One that needs to keep an audience engaged, consistently, over time. A properly crafted experience needs to be more than a one-time draw. It needs to be worthy of multiple repeat visits. In addition, it must offer new and ongoing layers of discovery for guests and fans alike.
While the experience may be a faithful adaptation of the IP, the best attractions and rides also function as standalone pieces of storytelling. They also stand the test of time. The key point of distinction for LBE is that it is a real-world participatory experience, an opportunity for guests to inhabit an extraordinary world.
An IP-inspired destination that embraces the limitless range of possibility and the incredible depth of immersive storytelling is one that will also continue to live in the hearts and minds of guests for years to come.
Next time: 5 Reasons Why the Big Thing for Digital Brands Is Physical Experiences.