In the present day, there is a pressing need for more independents to be seen on the high street. The consumer and the retailer want to feel like what they have bought has been produced locally and that it’s not a purchase that you are likely to see in every living room across the nation. Yet whilst the independent might be king in retail, leisure is a whole different story.
When visiting a leisure destination, the consumers’ expectations for their experience are higher to that of a retail store. The need for a well known, established and widely recognised brand is key to success, especially when reaching out to a younger audience.
As one of the UK’s leading design and build companies for attractions, Paragon Entertainment, understands this need for awareness, recognition and place making to succeed in the over-crowded leisure marketplace. This resulted in the company creating its exclusive licensing division in early 2014, which sees an array of globally recognised brands, such as Nerf, transformed into original and tailored attractions for small to large scale leisure facilities across the globe.
Mark Pyrah, sales and marketing director of Paragon Entertainment, explains: “When it comes to a leisure destination, brand and creating a sense of place are key. For an attraction to succeed in the marketplace it needs to have gravitas, a strong reputation and an immersive experience to draw the audience in.
“What must be considered is that a brand is more than just a name for an attraction. It is about creating a place, a sense of belonging, which has a perceived experience with specific expectations. It is powerful and can very much be the reason why a leisure offering sinks or swims.
At Paragon Entertainment, the team views an attraction as more than just a service, it creates a ‘third place’ where the consumers can go and enjoy themselves. It captures the precious leisure time they have, especially as such a time poor population. Using retail as an example, shopping centres have realised the need for a leisure offering and the idea of brand immersion looking for ways to differentiate the mall space, drive footfall and increase dwell time.
Mark explains: “A place is a multidimensional destination that offers a unique set of experiences for each person. It is different for every person dependent on how they use it. For a place to be successful it needs to think of everything from sounds, smells, tactical feedback, emotions and potential interactions. This is why utilising a brands name can often create a sense of belonging and understanding for an attraction, compared to that of an independent leisure offering.
“In leisure and visitor attractions, the term place-making refers to the process that turns a collection of buildings and spaces into a place that visitors develop an affinity towards and guarantees a return to again and again. What must be considered here is that it is not just about how the user of the attraction feels, a leisure operator needs to focus on creating a immersive experience for everyone involved. For example, in present day intergenerational families are the norm, with grandparents taking a big role in the child-care duties. Therefore it’s essential that a leisure owners brand offers something for this older audience too to encourage that repeat visit.”
By collaborating with a well-known brand to create an attraction, instantly the issue of raising the profile and establishing an identity is diminished. The consumer immediately trusts the attraction and understands what its intentions are. For example, Paragon Entertainment has developed a range of Nerf attractions in the UK. As a cult classic toy from the 1980s, people will instantly relate this attraction to blasters, action, combat and team playing games. Therefore the education process for this attraction between the leisure operator and the visitor is not as much of a priority.
Mark continues: “Gaining the consumer’s trust in your brand is half the hurdle, therefore if they already understand the offering and what the attraction will entail, this takes away any level of unknown or concern that often comes when launching a brand new concept.
“For any attraction to be a success it needs to be accessible and visible to the audience. Not always in the physical sense, this also means an audiences understanding of a brand. A recognisable name that is synonymous with a particular experience that encapsulates our own values and aspirations will mean that we trust the destination and feel a draw towards it. Disney is and always will be the leader in this arena, focusing on brand development with consistency across each experience being the main driver.”
At the heart of any attraction being a success, is its audience. Usually targeted towards the younger generation, it’s essential this audience not only knows about your brand and understands it, but there is also the demand for it. For an independent leisure operator to open an attraction that is solely their creation, what must be considered here is the additional time it will be take to generate the buzz and awareness to drive footfall to the venue.
Mark adds: “Before launching an attraction, branded or independent, you need to know your audience. A leisure operator needs to create something that the consumer for that area demands. By creating a venue that an eight or nine year old is already aware of, straight away you have an interested and captive audience. This is when the idea of pester power is utilised, which will raise the awareness and hype needed to succeed. Pester power is crucial to build and sustain momentum, as well as encouraging repeat visits.
“Any attraction needs to be repeatable and consistent, similar to that of a retail brand, when visitors find somewhere they like and trust they will want to revisit it regularly. Therefore creating a place that works for the audience and their need is essential. Retaining your regular and current visitors is far easier and more achievable than attracting new customers.”
The power of a brand can help any company triumph; it also provides a level of trust that independent leisure facilities cannot achieve. With safety, quality and reliability the top priority for any leisure attraction, by partnering with a leading and well-established brand alleviates the initial worry and perceptions the consumer might hold towards an independent operator, however it permanently needs to be managed and monitored to ensure that it is kept consistent and in line with the messaging.
Mark explains: “A brand gets you noticed, it gives the consumer a level of trust, understanding and certainty over a product. For any leisure operator to have the backing of a leading brand offers a degree of support and reassurance that cannot be provided anywhere else. When starting out in the leisure industry, this support and guidance from a brand acts as the perfect buffer for operators, especially when working with the latest and most up to date attractions in the market place.
“To create a successful attraction it needs to be actively managed by a dedicated team, with the illusion to the visitor that it is self-regulated. Whilst creating an overall experience for your brand may not show you a direction fiscal return, it creates the overall sense and identity of the attraction, resonating with your customers and guaranteeing they come back time and time again, which will in turn increase revenue. Ultimately, the destinations that will win out are those that have truly understood the value of place making and their brand.”
Paragon Entertainment holds the rights to distribute licensed leisure and attraction concepts. This opportunity is available for operators who want to develop, enhance and re-invigorate their existing leisure activities, or to people who want to start a leisure business using leading brands and current concepts. Brands within the division include Nerf, Yu Kids and courses, In the Night Garden, HiLo Challenge Dome and Kids Steam.
Mark concludes: “For our licensing division, we saw that there was a need for world class attractions and the ability to develop these brands into instantly recognisable and universally appealing attraction concepts. At the same time it was essential that each attraction is tailored to the requirements of the venue space, size and budget of the leisure operator to create a truly unique, original and compelling experience for its specific audience.”