For the finale of series one of our 10x10 Sessions, Zappar's CEO and Co-Founder (Caspar Thykier) is joined by Ash Tailor, Vice President of Global Brand and Marketing at LEGOLAND.
They chat about:
- LEGOLAND's new AR-powered park section, LEGO Mythica
- The importance of including AR from the outset, not as an add-on
- What the future of AR is in location-based entertainment
Caspar Thykier: Today I'm delighted to be joined by Ash Tailor, the Vice President of Global Brand and Marketing for LEGOLAND. So Ash, thank you so much for joining us. Perhaps you can start by giving us a little bit of background into your role at LEGOLAND and a bit about how you came across AR and your decision to bring it into your thinking.
Ash Tailor: Firstly, it’s a joy to be here, on a beautiful sunny day as well. In my role at LEGOLAND, I cover both LEGOLAND parks and resorts and all discovery centers throughout the world. We've got just under 30 Discovery Centers around the world, everything from Asia to across Europe, and we've got eight parks, and a new park opening in New York, Korea and China over the next two to three years.
My role is to help build out the innovation funnel of new news, and that could be creation of whole new worlds, theme parks, and lands all the way through to what events we create, as well as the central, TV kind of creative advertising. And that's across all of our parks around the world.
Caspar Thykier: Wow. That is a big old remit that you have there, isn't it? So when it comes to AR as a new tool in the marketing playbook, for LEGOLAND, how did that come about? How do you start that journey?
Ash Tailor: I've not worked in location-based entertainment before. I’m from the world of FMCG, both Coke and Unilever and other companies.
And I think I've always had an interest in augmented reality, and how AR when applied to brands in the right way can create some unique experiences - it can create and enhance those brand values. And so I've always had an interest in how brands use AR, but never actually implemented it myself. So when I joined the world of location-based entertainment and had the privilege of running the LEGOLAND parks and Discovery Centers, I wanted to find a way of actually, how do you fuse the digital world with the physical world?
And when you go to a theme park, you don't want to be in front of a screen - you're with your family, you're with your friends, but what's that complement where augmented reality can help elevate or boost those experiences, or give you those unexpected kind of moments that you weren't expecting in any shape or form.
So that's how I saw it from the outside. When I entered this world of LEGOLAND, I then wanted to see how we could subtly bring it into the events or the lands or the worlds that we create - and how do we build that, that metaverse or digital and physical world.
Caspar Thykier: Yeah, that's so interesting.
So rather than credibly, you managed to build and execute not only a whole new area of LEGOLAND, but also introduced the UK’s first flying theatre ride, and delivered AR as part of that guest experience for a brand new IP in Mythica, all during COVID. So what was the role of AR in Mythica and what does it add to that story?
Ash Tailor: Yeah, and Caspar what a crazy world that we've all been in. My hope is, touch wood, that we're all safe and well, and we'll never see anything like this again, moving forward, but you're absolutely right - in that time, most of it was done virtually by a team from around the world, from Los Angeles all the way through to London.
We've been working on and created a whole new Lego IP called LEGO Mythica, and yes, it consists of a number of theme park rides. It's a whole new world that we've created here in the UK. The premise is all about where your LEGO creatures come to life and it's all fueled by the imagination of children and kids.
And so we've got these amazing characters and these amazing personalities from Maximus, the sky lion, who heads up the flying theater ride all the way through to his sidekick buddy, Bits and Bobs. And the whole essence of this IP is about, as I said, where LEGO creatures come to life.
And what a perfect role that augmented reality can play, where you actually will see in parks, but also at home through the work that we've been doing together, your LEGO creatures will actually come to life through augmented reality. And so it's a great integration into the theme park experience.
And as I said before, it uses that physical world with that digital world and in a really complementary way. So we've had some great fun, not only building the land, building this world that you enter through a portal, but the consumers both at home and in the park can see these animals really come to life through the power of augmented reality.
I think this is a new frontier for the LEGOLAND entertainment team. You know, we're really pushing the boundaries of location-based entertainment within parks. I wanted to make sure AR wasn't just a gimmick, but integrated into the entire experience. And I think that's what we've achieved through LEGO Mythica and through augmented reality.
So it's something that I think not only I am proud of. The greatest test of strategy is the execution and we've had so many positive consumer responses to pictures that they see with Maximus, the sky lion, or the interactions that they then have with the, um, with the Kymera, through the augmented reality.
And it's a pleasure not only leading this brand, but also then seeing how these experiences really do come to life and capture memories for families when they come to the park.
Caspar Thykier: I mean, it really is an incredible achievement for sure. And you just touched briefly there on some of the reactions from customers.
I know it's early days, but what has been the reaction both internally and externally to the experience overall and the AR elements specifically? I guess after all, AR is not only new for LEGOLAND, but it's also new for a lot of people generally, still.
Ash Tailor: Yeah. The reaction's been phenomenal. And unlike other brands that I've worked on, where you've got to go into a consumer group to see how consumers react to your product, you just walk into a park or you go on social media and you see from a consumer perspective which is why I do this job - the smiles, the memories that we create, that have been captured on social media or they're being captured when they're in park has been phenomenal. And I think that's where augmenting reality has really helped complement the overall experience. It's not a gimmick in any shape or form. And we can see that because we see how the augmented reality is really captured as a moment or a memory of the day that parents and the children can take away. So from a consumer perspective it has been phenomenal.
From an internal perspective, we really pushed the boat out. You know, we've gone to a place and a space and a new frontier with augmented reality integrated into the park experience that we've never done before. So we've really pushed the boundaries. We've got a great partner on board and I think, you know, testament to you and your team, we actually had the right conversation early on.
So it wasn't an add-on. It wasn't a last minute thought. It was something that was integrated into that entire experience, right from the beginning. When we were pencil drawing - what could these experiences look like? What's the reaction that we want from our consumers? And I think that is paramount to ensure that the end result is the success that it is.
And you know, I've talked about gimmicks a number of times. That's the poor end of the scale of where augmented reality is, if not executed in the right way. And thankfully through the partnership, through working together to really have a vision upfront, we've seen this really come to life. And as I said, the consumers then talk and they share, and that's been the positive.
Caspar Thykier: Absolutely. And as you say, the opportunity to be involved right from the very inception of the IP and being able to bring the idea of spatial storytelling into the narrative from the start just made all the difference and really made AR part of the fabric of that narrative rather than an add-on.
Ash Tailor: And I'll say, Caspar, this isn't the end for me. We've started on a great journey, but this is now about actually, how do we really think about a metaverse for LEGOLAND? How do we really think about the digital and the physical and how do we entertain and bring those memories to life? And that won't just be done in a static way, but it also won't be done in a theme park in front of screens.
So it's finding the happy medium, but there will be more iterations. There'll be testing and learning from it, and the next phase of augmented reality within LEGOLAND parks, as well as Discovery Centers.
Caspar Thykier: I mean you're so right. We're really just at the start of an AR journey rather than at the end.
So where do you see the future for not only AR, but more broadly XR, sitting in the events and attractions industry? I mean, what we've done here is groundbreaking, but is there anything you're particularly excited about that you can imagine happening next?
Ash Tailor: That's a really interesting question. Look, when, when consumers go to a theme park or when they go to a Discovery Center, there's always that element of escapism. There's always that element of ‘wow’. It's all about building those fantastic memories so that when you grow up, it's those things that you always remember from when you were a child.
I think there's so much that we can then do. I think there's so many great experiences that we can create. I don't think it'd be exclusively digital and that's okay. I think there will always be the elements of that brick build. You know, consumers playing with bricks and consumers building - we always talk about the builders of tomorrow, and that’s something I'm super passionate about.
So I think the destiny or the future of augmented reality within theme parks is for us to create, and I think there are some good examples out there. My hope is from a LEGOLAND perspective, we will start to plan how we take augmenting reality and really compliment those thrills, that excitement that already exists within the theme world.
And that's a great journey to be on it.
Caspar Thykier: Fantastic. Well, that's actually all we've got time for I'm afraid. It really has been an absolute pleasure talking to you and working with you on Mythica and hopefully, it’s really the start of many more adventures to come.
Thanks again, really appreciate your time.
Ash Tailor: Most definitely Caspar and team. Thank you very much. It's been a real pleasure - and onwards and upwards, as I say. Thank you.