April 11, 2022

Hard To Stay In Business Against Us: Raising the barrier to entry in the escape room industry (Podcast Episode #12)


The world is finally emerging out of COVID-19 lockdowns. I think. I hope. Fingers crossed.

Moving into those lockdowns, the big story was – the rise of digital and virtual and remote.

But if I’ve learned one thing in my career, it’s that the pendulum always swings. Is there a pent-up demand for people to get out and interact? Is the in-person experience on your radar now?

Our latest guest shares what he learned about optimizing the in-person experience and communicating that value online. Listen in to the latest episode of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast to learn from Jonathan Murrell, Co-Founder & CMO, The Escape Game.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Hard To Stay In Business Against Us: Raising the barrier to entry in the escape room industry (Podcast Episode #12)

This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

You don’t just start with an amazing website. Or product. Or marketing campaign. As discussed in Session #9 of MECABS free digital marketing course – Website Strategies: 4 ways to prepare your marketing team to increase conversion rates – you start by preparing your team.

Listen now to hear Jonathan Murrell, Co-Founder & CMO, The Escape Game, discuss how his company decided on a strategy of long-term quality, prepared the team to executive on this strategy by hiring smart people and empowering them, and many more lesson-filled stories.

The Escape Game has 23 locations across the United States, and has served 3.8 million guests so far. It also has Team Building Hub, which enables virtual team-building within corporate teams and has served more than 5,000 companies nationwide to create more engaging virtual activities for employees.

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Google Podcasts | Listen in Amazon Music

Stories (with lessons) about what he made in marketing

Some lessons from Murrell that emerged in our discussion:

Quality is critical to the long term

The Escape Game spends 3-5x what national competitors spend to deploy new stores. The escape room company is not the fastest grower in terms of store count, but revenue from its 23 stores is greater than competitors with 50 + stores.

This focus on a high-quality product led Murrell and his team to use real photos in their marketing, and even 360-degree room tours, while competitors used stock photos.

It also led them to create a custom booking tool focused on the game content instead of the reservation time, which is how off-the-shelf booking widgets displayed options to customers. This changed increased conversion 15%.

Hire smart people and empower them

The books “Excellence Wins: A No-Nonsense Guide to Becoming the Best in a World of Compromise” by Horst Schulze (one of the founders of The Ritz-Carlton), and “Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business” by Danny Meyer inspired Murrell’s approach to preparing his team to executive on a business strategy focused on high quality.

One example is how Andre Sanabria, General Manager, The Escape Game, followed unhappy customers to a nearby Cold Stone Creamery location after they played a game. He struck up a casual conversation and discovered they didn’t have a great time. So he refunded their money, gave them tickets to come back, and even bought them ice cream.

Learn how to pivot your value proposition

During COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, Teddy Cheek, Senior Director of Marketing and Brand, The Escape Game, noticed that other escape rooms were pivoting to virtual. Murrell was skeptical of virtual offering’s quality at first. But the team ended up building a custom interface, coming later to market than competitors but creating a product that they felt was high quality enough to represent the brand well.

Stories (with lessons) about the people he made it with

Murrell also shared lessons he learned from key people in his career:

Ray Fournier, Senior Manager of Entertainment Options, The Walt Disney Company: Think big and fast

Collaborating with Fournier and the team at Disney helped Murrell and his team break down some internal barriers they had put in place for themselves, making them realize they could execute high-quality offerings quicker and bigger than they had previously imagined.

Belinda Minkner, Project Head, PwC: Details matter

Collaborating with Minkner and PwC helped Murrell and his team professionalize their operational abilities.

Ed Catmull, President, Walt Disney Animation Studios: All creative processes start as ugly babies

Catmull wrote the book “Creativity, Inc.” which taught Murrell that all creative ideas start unformed, and frankly, pretty ugly. These ideas have a great future in front of them, but when they’re really small they take a lot of crafting and shaping and patience.

Related content mentioned in this episode

Landing Page Optimization: Goodbye stock photos and Happy Man, hello social media

Why You Should Consider Customer Service to be 1-to-1 Marketing

Email Marketing: Why don’t you want to hear from your customers?

99 Problem Ideas: “Harvey Gabor (art director on Coke’s iconic campaign) burned my ad concept with a lighter” – Podcast Episode #11

About this podcast

This podcast is not about marketing – it is about the marketer. It draws its inspiration from the Flint McGlaughlin quote, “The key to transformative marketing is a transformed marketer” from the Become a Marketer-Philosopher: Create and optimize high-converting webpages free digital marketing course.


Not ready for a listen just yet? Interested in searching the content? No problem. Below is a rough transcript of our conversation.

Daniel Burstein: The world is finally emerging out of these COVID 19 lockdowns, I think. I hope, fingers crossed, I don’t know I can't predict the future, but you know, moving into those lockdowns, remember, the big story was the rise of digital and virtual and remote. You know, we're all separated, and these digital technologies were great and yeah, but, you know, if I've learned one thing in my career is that the pendulum swings back the other way just when it seems like things are one way. There's a snap back in another direction.

So, things are opening up again. I wonder, is there a pent-up demand for people to get out and interact as human beings? Right. So as a marker, as an entrepreneur, is the in-person experience on your radar now, what is the in-person experience for your brand? These questions were on my mind, and then I received a really quality podcast guest application from someone I thought we could all learn from at this very moment.

He's an entrepreneur and a marketer whose brand entirely depends on the in-person experience. Well, I thought, well, we're going to learn more about how he pivoted to virtual. But the in-person experience is so important to his brand, and especially the value proposition, the value perception of that experience. So, joining me now is Jonathan Murrell, co-founder and CMO of The Escape Game. Thanks for being here, Jonathan.

Jonathan Murrell: Hi, Daniel. Thanks a lot for having me today.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. So, people for people not familiar about the escape game, just want to people know at a high level, 23 locations, 3.8 million guests. And in almost every market that the escape game operates in, it's the number one escape room on TripAdvisor. Just gives you a little idea of Jonathan's brand. But give us an idea of where your brand is heading real quick and kind of what your day to day is like. What's your role like there?

Jonathan Murrell: Yeah, absolutely. So, this year we'll see sometime during the year we'll hit our 5,000,000th guest that’s been served at the escape game since we launched our first store in 2014. We're really excited about crossing that milestone. Like you said, we have 23 stores open for business right now. We are planning to open another seven this year. And so, our goal is to end the year with 30 stores open across the country. And we're kind of on an internal mission to go for we say 55 by 2025.

And so, it's sort of our where we see the next couple of years bringing our brand, my day to day here at the escape game I spend a lot of time with our marketing team, obviously, but then also I'm more focused on sort of developing our pipeline. And so, anything that results in us getting new stores built and then new stores, games sold in existing stores and so marketing, real estate production and the construction side all kind of fall under teams that I work with. Yes, that's kind of my day-to-day spreads across a couple of different teams here.

Daniel Burstein: All right, great so let's jump in and see what lessons we can learn from the things you've made in your career. In this first one jumped out at me. So, we just talked about the number of locations you had, but I really like how it's not just some big volume play. How can we get as many locations out there as possible? You said quality is critical to the long term. So, tell us tell us a story about how you learned that.

Jonathan Murrell: Yeah, absolutely. So, it kind of goes back to a couple of different moments in our team's history, but one that we all definitely look at as a major milestone. At back to 2016. There was an escape room industry conference and so in 2016 the escape room industry was new but no longer like super new. There was over a thousand or maybe even more than that companies doing this thing in America at that point.

I think it was the first year where there was an industry conference. It got big enough to actually get everybody together. And at that point I think we had four locations open, and we weren't the biggest in the country by any means. There was a company there already with ten or 15 locations. And so we were all at this conference together and we were looking around and what we started to see kind of surprised us because a lot of people were starting to say, Hey, you know, escape rooms are not the latest, greatest thing anymore. What should we be doing next?

And there were all of these, what we considered competitors who were starting to sort of question whether they should still be in the business. And because it had started to get saturated, at this point where it was no longer the new fad. And we were saying like this thing is a lot bigger than everyone seems to be talking about. We want to be in this for the long haul. We don't want to just be experiential, sort of like trail chasers and jump after the newest thing that stays open for six months.

And so, we start to kind of question, why were these people feeling this way? And what we realized was that I mean, when escape rooms first came out it was really cheap and easy to put an escape room out. You could spend $20,000 and your room could be full because it was so new and exciting and appealing. And over time, the barrier to entry was being that it was being pushed and we had sort of been pushing it. But had it been really intentionally pushing it, we just said, hey, we want to be the best when we do stuff.

And so, we've been investing more in every subsequent room than we did the one before. And what we realized was there was this inflection point that most owners were getting to saying If I want to stay competitive in this new world, you know, 2016 and beyond. I'm going to need to invest very differently than I did in my first few stores. And most people were saying no to that question. And we sat at a conference. And me and my two co-founders, and we're like, this is actually a perfect opportunity. Let's go harder than we ever have. And let's differentiate ourselves by offering a level of quality that no one else is willing to stomach the risk for. And so, we kind of left that conference with a renewed sense of like, quality is how we're going to look different. Let's invest in our product.

You know, fast forward, what that looks like five years later is that we spend three to five times what our average national competitor spends to produce a store. Our games, we've gone, you know, to great lengths to make sure that our games are as immersive and as Disney quality as possible because we said, hey, we want to we want to make it hard for these people to stay in business against us. We want to make the difference between what we're doing and what they're doing seem as drastic as possible.

And so, we went this quality approach to build, to try to build a moat in an industry that had to run out and said, this is, you know, hey, the barriers to entry are really low here. Like, let's change that dynamic, let's change that script. And it sort of followed two directions. One, we decided to go after high quality real estate and said high quality real estate can tell a story about us to our guest that bad real estate can't. Most escape rooms are you know, if you've played one, it probably it was probably a destination. You probably went not too sort of a core part of where you would normally spend your evening or go to dinner. You probably went to a second floor and maybe like its normally classy real estate and we said, let's go to the best real estate we can afford. Let's go to places like Mall of America. Or if we're in Chicago, let's be as close to the Magnificent Mile as we can. Or we kind of in San Francisco, you know, let's go to the Wharf. That's the kind of place we want to be.

And most of our competitors were staying really far away from those places. And so that was one way we approached quality was let's go quality with our real estate. And then we said, let's go quality with our game content and let's invest heavily in our games and our environments in our construction. And let's make sure that those two things set us apart. Let's go quality with our staff and our team while we are it. And so really, those three areas have been really distinguishing parts of TEG’s story from 2016 and beyond where we went high quality with the content. We invest in our teams and our front line, and we really care a lot about the real estate that we select, and we think we can put all those things together. The quality shines through for the guests in a way that it's pretty clear, like this is a premier we like to say that we're the best, but at the very least we are in a very premier small category of top tier escape rooms in the country.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I say that because for anyone with in-person physical locations, the location itself says something about the company's value proposition before you even get there. And I didn't know that strategy before we talked. But I looked at your website before we talked to see, I'm in Jacksonville, to see where you're located in Jacksonville. Because I've been in an escape room once with my daughter's friends, and it was kind of in this weird location. It was like kind of a classy office park somewhere. That was kind of weird. We're going and I knew that stuff was there. When I looked you up, you guys were in St. Johns Town Center, which in Jacksonville is like the premium outdoor mall, like right in the center of town. So, I think that's interesting. I did get a perception. I didn't even realize this at the time. Now that you tell me, I did get a perception of your company versus that other company just from seeing where you were located. And you know, when I was going through your application saying that they're pretty legit if they're, you know, in St John's Town Center, which I guess as a premium location in the city.

But so, another thing that customers are going to do, right, every brand has this challenge, whether you're e-commerce, whether you're physical, whether you're, you know, a brand in a store, is there's the perception of value. So, sure you can increase your investment in the quality, it can be better. But if your marketing doesn't communicate that, then it's not going to matter to anyone. So, what did you do to kind of increase that perception of value compared to your different competitors?

Jonathan Murrell: Yeah, that's a great question. And just to the St John point, I think that's a great example of that's exactly what we want a local to feel about the stores we select, is that like it's probably somewhere that you're used to going for dinner. You might go shop there; you're expecting to go there for entertainment. One thing about our real estate choice 90% of our guests pair our experience immediately, directly or after with, with a casual dining restaurant.

And so that's a lot easier for you to make a day of this or an evening of this when we're not in a classy office park that you feel a little weird about going to. And so, you know, yeah, that's definitely been a huge part of what we do, but.

Daniel Burstein: Well actually I want to stop you right there because that's a really good point. Like every many brands have compliments to them and understanding what the compliments are to your brand experience and how they can work together. Like we used to work on newspaper brands and a big compliment to an actual physical newspaper is coffee, you know? So, if you can make sure you've got either the newspaper in the coffee shops or with your offer, if you have a subscription offered, you have like, you know, free local coffee with it or something like that.

And understanding the brand, compliments you know what is the jelly to your peanut butter? And so, for you guys, that makes a lot of sense. What you said like when I went to that other, we only did that because it was just that some weird like classy office park location that there was really nothing around, you know, especially on a weekend or whenever we went. But your point. Yeah, I remember in the malls, it has changed some, there always used to be the movie theater in the mall, right? Because you would go your dinner and a movie dinner and a movie. Right. So, it makes sense that you're kind of tying it to like I said, in our case, Saint John's Town Center is like an experiential outdoor mall where it's got, you know, restaurants and all all that type of stuff. So that's really interesting.

But let's talk about the virtual now. So how do you, like you said, an interesting thing about you going to an industry conference and if people, you know, listening to this podcast haven’t, one great thing about going to an industry conference like Jonathan's experience was sometimes when you talk about your value proposition and the value proposition you have in your marketing, a lot of it is table stakes and it's really not that differentiated.

And when you're forced into the same room with a lot of other competitors, you start to learn like, hey, wait a minute, you know, everyone's offering the same thing. How are we different? That's where Jonathan kind of had that epiphany of, hey, we've got to be better quality than anyone else. That's got to be our unique value proposition. But then it gets to okay, your website, you know, how do you communicate that differently? So that value is perceived because until they experience the product, no one's going to know it.

Jonathan Murrell: Absolutely. Yeah. And we are we sort of there's almost like this unwritten rule in the industry that you didn't share secrets in advance. No one could see inside the room because that might spoil something. And it kind of all originated with, you know, the first few concepts in Europe from which everybody kind of borrowed this idea, they treated in that way. Just kind of kept that thing alive. And so, for a couple of years, you know, everyone, if you ever played an escape room in the early years, people would be like you can't use your phones. There's this very intense secrecy around. We don't want what's happening in this room to be shared because we want the people who play next to have a great experience.

And we weren't alone in thinking that way. Just sort of was the consensus thinking and one day around that same time in 2016, our rooms we were investing hundreds of thousands of dollars to make our rooms look immersive and amazing. And we were sitting there with our marketing team and me and Teddy, we're talking, we're like our, our rooms look ten x different than our average competitor.

But our websites look the same because we are both using representative imagery, not actual imagery. And we're like, this is at a point where everyone in the world is doing it one way, but we're like, it's because they don't have something that's going to show well. So, it made sense to use something that was representative imagery. And we're like, we actually at this point have something we want to be proud of and show the whole world that we are doing it that much differently than you.

And so, we just sort of had this major change in saying, let's actually go the opposite direction. Let's show off every bit of our rooms because we want guests to imagine themselves in this immersive environment and have this experience that’s very different than sort of walking into a room that decorated with IKEA or goodwill furniture and solving a bunch of locks and puzzles. We were that point already, building these immersive worlds where you really felt like you were in Alcatraz.

And so, like, we need to show that to people because that's we can tell you about our difference all day long, but let's show it to you. And so we did professional photography shoots we totally changed our site out and said we want to show everything we did 360 scans of the rooms and the let's let guests actually do a 360° tour through the room and let's let them take which theme that looks more exciting to them. And we know that our quality is going to shine through and show well. And that was a huge sort of turning point for us and what we've seen over the last couple of years is that other brands who also invest in the quality were able to kind of borrow that judgment that, hey, let's use that. And then all the brands who chose not to invest in quality, they couldn't do that because it would show poorly online.

And so, they've stayed with, you know, imagery. So I'm at a point where if I'm visiting, if, say, they want to play an escape room, if I don't see in real life images and I don't see 360° scans or some representation of the room, I'm making assumption about the quality because I'm like, if, if it was good you would want to show it to me. And if you're not showing it to me, you might be trying to trick me into coming and playing this because anyone can make a stock image look really exciting. But what am I actually going to do when I get there? And I think that was just a huge change for us. That was possible because of an earlier decision to really invest in the quality of the experience.

Daniel Burstein: That's a great story on how you used actual real photos of your rooms instead of just stock photos like everyone else was using. And really, I think there's two lessons that I take from that and I think everyone listening could is one, we've seen that for a variety of companies, B2B tech companies, we've seen that real photos work better than stock photos.

So, look at your website do you really need to stock photos or can you use real photos of whatever you're offering. But another thing there reminds me of a story we used to do an in-person event summit and you know, at the summit one the attendees were telling me like, oh, I had this summit was so valuable, valuable to me. I was like, oh, great! was it the case studies we did on stage? And he was like, those were great too. But you know, at the one of the networking events, I actually met someone from one of our main competitors. And, you know, we were looking at them as what they have the best practices in our industry. So, we would just repeat everything they did, and it wasn't working for us.

And so, I sat down, was kind of picking his brain and he's like, you know what? It's not working for us either. And so, I think that's a great lesson of like looking at, you know, what's going on in your industry. Yeah, you can learn from it, but don't just blindly copy it because you don't know how well it's working for them.

And what I like is you really pioneered something new in your industries that just because everyone else is doing that, we're not going to do that. We're going to do something different. So that's a great example of value, you know, communicating your value proposition, making sure that customers actually perceive the quality of your product. But is there anything process wise that you did differently on your website to help communicate that investment in quality, to help you help them perceive that value?

Jonathan Murrell: Yeah, absolutely. One thing that comes to mind is that sort of at the time, most of the booking tools are available, third-party software is what all the escape rooms used to actually sell the experience on their website, we all use these embedded widgets. The default structure was always just a time schedule. So just at 9:00 and 10:00 and 11:00 games and it was there was no visuals it was just it said, you know, name of game available at 11. How many slots name of game available at 11? And it was almost like you're looking at a spreadsheet, you know, hundreds of companies, thousand companies across the US and around the world, we're using the same very basic boring kind of way to present. And it was a very, it was a time first way to present the content and there was no visual to it.

And we were sort of sitting there thinking like, how do people actually want to use this? Not how does a tool let us use this? Because the tool only lets you do it this way. But if I'm picking a movie, I don't decide that I want to go to a movie at six and then see what's playing at six. I want to go see Batman, and then I see where it's playing at six. And so, then we also want to figure out how do we show these great images. So even in the booking process, you can be reminded of this quality you're going to step into. And so, at the time, there was nothing really that let us do that.

And so, we built a custom tool that allowed us to showcase our calendar by game. And so, you could first select like, hey, I'm interested in prison break and then see the times available for prison break, or I want to play Goldrush and then see the times for that versus being forced to see this sort of almost spreadsheet like view that was really just driven by what time do you want to come in? And here's the titles.

And so, we did this, so it had the hypothesis, we tested it, we saw a 15% change in conversion when we offered guests the ability to sort this by the game that they wanted to play first, not the time first and by and it also enabled us to put the photo, those real-life photos that showcased our experience, you know, front and center. So, when you're deciding if you want to play ball rush or prison break, you actually get to look at a picture of gold rush versus prison break and you're not just, you know, reading based on name and title. So that was a huge change that we made that we actually started message boards. Later, I saw a bunch of the saying, what is the escape game using? How do it like how are they using the tool that way? They know what software they're using, really. You know, it was required custom work to pull that off. As you know, it wasn’t readily available. We've actually seen some of the tools now take that functionality and use it in their tool. So now it's a native functionality.

So, I think that's another area where we saw that the tool available wasn't really serving the guests the way we thought they needed to be served. And we were willing to make our own thing to make that work.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I think that's a great example for everyone listening to, you know, it's not just a booking tool. Look at the usability of your website, the UX, the customer experience, and actually instead of just saying, hey, there's this off the shelf tool method up there, look at the experience through the customer eyes. I’m saying even before you buy a tool, just sit down.

A great thing to always do is get in a room map out what the customer experience should be and then look at tools and then look and see in the marketplace. Hey, does the marketplace have that right tool to serve the customer experience, and if it does not, then it might make sense to make a home-grown tool. I mean, it's not even booking tools. That's a great example.

Websites sometimes too. There are so many templated websites now where you just see like the same templates on every different website. Okay, if it serves the customer, it makes sense. But don't start with the template, start with the customer. What does the customer need? If the template or the tool serves it great. If not well, then you got to create something yourself.

Okay. So, we're talking about yeah, we're talking about your quality is critical to the long term, how you invested in quality. And you know, one thing we've got to actually free digital marketing course from MECLABS Institute our parent organization. And one thing we talk about is preparing the team. Right, before you even get, you know, that website out there is preparing the team to make sure they can deliver on the value you want to communicate through your website.

And so, it's kind of curious how you prepared the team to deliver a higher quality experience. And so, one of the lessons you mentioned was hire smart people and empower them. So do you have stories around that.

Jonathan Murrell: Yeah, for sure. And I think there's three books that really shape the way the escape game thinks about our team. And the excellence of our team on there to two books. But Excellence Wins, which is written by Horst Schulze, and one of the co-founders of the Ritz-Carlton. And Setting the Table by Danny Meyer, who's a restaurant genius out of New York and built the restaurant empire based on hospitality and service.

And so, these two books show up all throughout our training manuals. But really, they both sort of really hit on this point of like, you have to get the right people, the right people on the bus, the right people on the team. Then once you do, you've got to give them a lot of training, a lot of coaching, a great vision and clear values of what you're asking to live up to. But then you've got to kind of get out of their way and give them some space to interpret that their own way. And each company does that in their own. And the Ritz-Carlton at the time was famous for the, you know, Frontline team members could spend up to $2,000 solving a guest problem and you know, that looks different in each industry.

But we took that to heart and kind of have a really robust training process for our Frontline team members. But at the same time, we encourage them to be creative and say we really say we want our guests to come in here to be taken care of, to have a great time. And if they don't have a great time, we don't want their money. And we want you guys to be empowered to recognize if they're having a good time or not and solve it on the spot. And you don't need a call manager, you don't need to get the shift leader involved, like fix these problems. So that's a heart. We don't want something to go wrong, and it's got to go up three chains of communication to get solved.

And so, we really worked hard from the very beginning when we only had one or two stores to make sure that at the end of the day, our frontline team members are who actually deal with guests daily. They are the point at which a guest either has a great time or a bad time. And so, we've put a high value on them understanding their role in that process and make sure that they care deeply deeply about every single guest having a good time. Our mission, actually to design and deliver amazing interactive experiences for every single guest.

And so, we from the very beginning of had this huge emphasis on that, every single piece. And one story that always comes to mind because it's just a fun example of our team feeling that burden themselves. And so, Andre Sanabria was in our Orlando store. He'd been with TEG about three or four months now, and he was a team leader, and he was passionate and cared about guests a lot. And he overheard while he's in the control room, the team that had had a mixed group, which means two people, two groups didn't know each other, played the same game one of them. It's very rare that it happens, but occasionally those end in one team feeling like one part of the group feeling like they didn't have as good an experience. Maybe the other team didn't communicate well with them or overpowered the room. And so, they weren't as satisfied with their game. And he heard that in the control room and rushed into the lobby to try to catch them before they left so he could talk to them. He missed them and he saw that they'd just walk out the door.

And so, he's like, What do I do here? I know that I don't want them to leave. Not thrilled about what they just experienced here at the escape game Orlando, so he jumped, ran out of the parking lot, looked for him. He saw them walk into the cold stone next door. He's like, okay, I don't want to be weird. I got to figure out how do I go make this right you know? Because if we catch him in our lobby, we say, we're so sorry. You know, you didn't seem like you had a great time in there. We train our game guide to what we call it Collecting and Connecting Clues, which is actually something we borrowed from Danny Meyer.

But we train our game guides when you meet a team in the lobby, find out why they're here, talk to them, get to know them, get to know what they're expecting out of this. Get to know what they're wanting to accomplish today. Are they a super competitive team? Are they here for family fun? What is it that sort of behind the scenes here of their motivation? And then when you're guiding their experience, care about that, watch that. Are they folding their arms? Is someone sitting down, or they all engaged, are they communicating? And so we're training them to care about the signs that our guests are seeing. And the guest exhibit signs of not being happy or not having a good time. We train them to catch them in the lobby and make that right.

And so, Andre was like, okay, I can't let them leave. I, I knew that they were showing the signs that they didn't have a great time here. And so, he followed them into cold stone. He got in line behind him in cold zone trying to figure out how do I, how do I make this you know, how do I make this normal? But basically, struck up a conversation with them like, Hey, I'm Andre. Oh, you guys just played. He tried to make it casual like he wasn’t chasing them through the parking lot but started asking questions and found out that, you know, they hadn't had the greatest time in the room for various reasons. And he was like, guys, I'm so sorry. That wasn't the experience you wanted. What we're trying to deliver is amazing for every guest. You didn't have a good time. We're going to refund your experience. Let me buy your ice cream. Here's tickets to come back, trust me, like it's going to be flawless this time. Come back with us. And they did come back, and they did have a great time.

And that's just like the small story of where you know, a team leader who had been with us less than six months felt so empowered to go chase a guest down, find them in another restaurant do the refund on the spot and do everything it took to get them back in. And Danny Meyer says something in his book about actually it's sort of counterintuitive, but he says that loyalty is just trust.

And so, he said sometimes our best opportunity is to build loyalty or when something goes wrong, because if we can address what went wrong, and use that as a bridge to build trust with the guests, then they actually can become more loyal than a guest where it was a flatline experience the whole time. Everything went well so they never even got to engage with an Andre and understand how deeply we really do care.

So, we actually have more loyalty sometimes from these guests where something went wrong. And then they were so impressed by how deeply we cared and how far we went to make it right that they become some of our most loyal fans who write rave reviews and talk about how we turned around something that we I think most companies just let those things slide and chalk it up to, well, you know, you know, not everything's perfect. Sometimes bad things happen. We look at those and say, what most people view as sort of let it drift away and don't worry about it into our most raving fans. And that's kind of what we're always looking to do. And I think Andre chasing a team into the neighboring ice cream shop is, is a story that we like to tell new team members to give them a glimpse of you can do whatever you think is right to make this right for the guests. And to make sure that people dress the brand because all this work we're doing is about these guys having a good time. And if they don't have a good time, it's on us to fix it.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I think there's a great point you make. You know, when we hear bad customer feedback or a negative customer experience, you know, we look at that as a bad thing, but really, it's an opportunity because it's an opportunity to improve the experience for the customer and to build a better relationship with them. And you mentioned so I think that that you said he was only in the role for six months, but now he's a general manager in one of your key stores?

Jonathan Murrell: Yeah, absolutely. So, he was committed to TEG’s values, and he continued to grow in the company. I think he was with the company less than three years before he was given the opportunity to be our GM actually in Jacksonville. So, he was the launch GM at the Jacksonville St. John location. He ran that store, did an amazing job putting together a great team, raised the leader up, someone who he hired and trained and became ready to take on that store. And then he moved to Nashville to, to be the GM of our flagship store here just about a year ago. So, he's a credible part of TEG, we call him a cultural pillar just someone we're super thankful to have on the team.

Daniel Burstein: That's great. You know, it's interesting, when I first read your story, I didn't realize it was inspired partly by the Ritz-Carlton book. But, you know, I think of Ritz-Carlton what they say is, ladies and gentlemen, serving, ladies and gentlemen. Right. That's their view of customer service. And so, I think the real challenge with companies a lot of times is we look at customer service or even that in-person, you know, how much staffing we're going to have in our stores or if we have an in-person brand activation, you know, who's going to be there.

We look at that as a cost center, right, instead of a valuable customer touchpoint. Right. Look at what marketing is. Marketing is we're paying a lot of money to be able to have customer touchpoints. So why do we look at customer service as a cost? You know, customer service? I like to call it one on one marketing. And so, you know, look at it that we train your team that way. And that's a great thing about having an in-person experience. Yes, there's a lot we can do online to read customers. We can listen on social media. We can actually let people reply to our emails instead of having no-reply emails.

But the upside of having a physical location or having a brand activation where, you know, your team could actually interact with people is what you're training your team to do. There's so many signals we could read from human beings when we're in-person with them, just what we overhear, what they say, their body language and all these things and empowering and training your team in teaching that that interaction with the customer, every interaction with the customer, it's a thing of value, right? It's not a cost center, it's one to one marketing.

Jonathan Murrell: 100%. Yeah, we have a team that we call the call center, a customer service team and we call them the guest experience team. And to take calls from guests and serve guests. And what we try to encourage them to do is, and most of them, I would say probably the vast majority of them came from within the store, and they were sort of all-stars at handling guests well and at doing that connecting and collecting clues and treating guests so well. We said, hey, can you spend your whole job just doing that one to one with guests?

And so it's weekly and daily where we're getting stories out of that team where they're staying like, yeah, I, you know, I spent an hour on the phone with this person, but we planned this whole birthday surprise, And we're intentional about saying we're not going to track what you do by the hour because that birthday surprise you planned with someone, where then they'll get off the phone, they'll coordinate with the GM, they'll hide the cake in the last clue of prison break and they'll make this thing happen. That guest is like they don't pay anything extra for it. They just called and said, hey, you know, we're celebrating a birthday. Can I do something special? And our team is like, yes, you can. Let me make that work for you. And so totally agree that most companies treat that as a cost. And we look at that as one the most valuable ways that we can talk to guests. Get their feedback but then also wow them before they even come into the building and set our GM’s and our stores and our frontline team members up for even greater success.

Daniel Burstein: And I think there's another key nugget of wisdom in what you said there because, you know, because great customer service doesn't just happen from having great people. Yeah, that's an element of it. But it's also measuring and incenting the right things. And so, if you're just measuring, how quickly can they get them off the darn phone or some of the other things? What do you think you're going to get from it? Yeah, they're not going to really help people are going to get off the phone real quick. So, if you're encouraging that behavior, I love that having an hour, call plan, that birthday experience and then what happens, you probably get word-of-mouth marketing, right? That person is probably telling ten other people, or ten other people are at that birthday party, and then they want that birthday party for their kids.

So, I love that.  So once again we talked about, you know, I think there's a lot we can learn. And at the end, we're going to talk about a bit your creative process about how you set up that in-person experience. And that in-person experience is maybe becoming more important now after COVID 19. But boy, you must have got hit hard, right? COVID 19 happened, you had an in-person product, and you say, well, another thing you learned was learn how to pivot your value prop. So how did you pivot that value prop during COVID 19?

Jonathan Murrell: Yeah, absolutely. So, we are like every other retail business had a really rough March 2020 and I don't know if it was the 17th, 18th, or 19 but, somewhere in that three day period we went from thinking that we were just going to have to wear masks and sanitize to all 18 stores got shut down. So that was a dramatic couple of days for us and we were quickly like, you know, what are we going to do? Are we gonna survive as a business? All those questions are coming in. We had to do what most companies do, which was create a pretty large furlough program. About 23 of us were sort of put on reduced hours and time, but we said we got to keep a few people around to try to figure out how do we navigate out of this.

And so, about a month into it, we were every day we would just wake and say, what can we do? What can we do to make sure that this thing comes out on the other side? And so, Teddi, our Senior Director of Marketing he noticed that some of the escape rooms were pivoting to what can be called sort of virtual escape room experiences. We call them remote adventures, but they're basically this idea that you can have somebody with a headset and a camera navigating, your in real life rooms, playing with people on Zoom. And so the person on Zoom can say, hey, look to the left, and they’d pan to the left, or pick that up or read me that or put this code in. And they were able to then utilize the asset, utilize the team member and the infrastructure and provide this digital first experience.

And so, we saw that and we were like, at first I blew it off. I said, Teddy, it's not high quality. We can't do that. It's degrading to the experience we've created because at the time, like all new things it started where it was pretty poor quality being delivered, but he was like we can do it well as like, all right, let's test it well. But if we're going to do it, we need to do something different. What can we do to make this TEG’s the way we would approach this and make it a higher quality experience? And so, we decided that one thing missing was a way for guests to interact with a digital custom dashboard so that they don't just have to see through the eyes of the camera, but they can actually interact with things on their computer and so very early on, we sort of said this could be something we could do, but we're not going to do it like everyone else's.

And so, we launched a little bit later and we weren't the first to market, but we built a custom interface and said, Hey, so ours kind of became unique because if you were playing, you had a dashboard and you also had your zoom up, and then you could see what I was looking at in the room. But if let's say I picked up a piece of paper, that paper would then show up on your dashboard. So then independently you could actually engage with that, you could read it, you could, you know. You built up an inventory system of the things that I had physically picked up in the room. And so, it made it a little bit more interactive between the players scattered around the country or world on Zoom, our host physically in the room and then we had a second team member who was on the Zoom call helping to facilitate and make sure that connections were being made.

And so, we kind of just took a slightly different more custom approach, what we consider sort of a higher quality approach to making sure that the guests could be as immersed as possible. Because we're like, this is all about escape rooms are about immersing yourself in this adventure, about connecting with people. And so, we wanted to do everything we could to not lose those two elements as we kind of pivoted to digital. But we also knew that we had no idea when stores were coming back online. So, we needed to make this digital pivot. So, we made that digital pivot guests reacted well, and for the next 12 months, we continued to grow our digital business almost as fast as we could, open new rooms up and and get the dashboards online. We would start selling out rooms.

And it made us realize a couple of months into this, the first few months are survival mode and you're just trying to figure out this new product. And then six months in, we start to realize this is something that maybe could last forever because this is something that we're providing a real value to our corporate guest here from a couple of levels.

One, before in our old world, if you are a team in Orlando and had 40 people you know, we could accommodate you if you had 80 well our store only fit 40 and so you could have played together or more likely you're a team in Orlando but you're also closely collaborating with teams in other cities, even other countries. All of a sudden with this new remote platform we could get all of you playing together at the same time. We could facilitate a 200-person group. We would break you into sub rooms and so it's not 200 people on one call, but we could do it all at once. You can debrief afterward all at once. We could kind of actually shrink the world a little bit for you and your team, and you could get that same connection that you would have gotten in an indoor room and get as close to that experience of finding, and autonomy, and searching as possible.

And so, we kind of went from thinking this is sort of a way to keep us hands busy and keep people's jobs alive during COVID to this could be something much bigger. And so, we actually turned that pivot and went full speed with it and started developing a digital capability that didn't exist before COVID, began to ramp an engineering team, built an entire group of people first in Las Vegas and a second hub here in Nashville. People who facilitate and host these virtual experiences who are digital only employees, they are only with our digital only guests.

And here we are two years past that date and TEG now considers itself a, you know, a two-business company. We have our in real life business that's growing and we're adding seven stories this year. And we've got a virtual focused team building business that's also growing. And we're adding team members and we're building it. And the virtual business, we actually developed a sort of a hub for it that we call it Team Building Hub. And it's its own sort of brand. And it says Team Building Hub, powered by the escape games. So, it's got its own brand around it.

But we want to clearly deliver the value proposition to our large corporate teams who are looking for this virtual distributed experience and really invest in it like it's its own whole direction for the company. So, we're thankful of what came out of COVID because it forced us to have this pivot which forced us to do a lot of innovation.

Daniel Burstein: I think there's a really good lesson in there that you mentioned too. So, look, I'll tell you one thing. I don't know what's going to happen with COVID 19, but I do know one thing, something's going to happen and if it is not COVID 19, it's something else. It's always going to be a disruption. You know, there was a disruption of the Internet, I don't know the metaverse or who knows, but I do know this. If you really understand your company's value proposition, you learn to be nimble, then you can pivot wherever it needs to go. Whatever this new macro universe provides to us.

But one key lesson really from what you said, Jonathan, was, you know, hey, you worried it wasn't good enough at first? So, yeah, so we have our value proposition, and we need to pivot to the new way of doing things. But we also have to, you know, make sure it actually accurately represents our value proposition. It's the right amount of quality. Don't just throw it up there because you can. So that was good. I love how you tested it. First, we made sure like, okay, we're not going to launch this. Yeah. We might need to pivot in this new reality and put our value proposition in a new way. We're not going to launch this until it really represents the brand and the customer experience, we're trying to get out there, or else you're just shooting yourself in the foot, right? That doesn't help anyone.

So, we talked about some of the lessons from the things you made now. You know, we as marketers, I think we do two things. We make things right, unlike, I don’t know dentists or accountants, or I’ve never been anything else. But I'm guessing, you know, a lot of them don't get to make things. You really make things, you know, and the other thing we do is we get to make things with others and learn from them and collaborate and, you know, just and so let's talk about some of the people you collaborate with or just some of the people you learn from. And so up I have, Ray Fournier is a producer at Disney. And from him you learn to think big and fast. So how did you learn that from Ray?

Jonathan Murrell: Yeah, absolutely. Well, we had the opportunity fairly early in 2015, actually, two years into doing this, to collaborate with, with Disney on a custom private event and experience that they were designing for a client. And what really stands out is Ray was producing the event, but we were going down the road and we were flying to Orlando meeting with the creative team talking about all these things.

And first thing that stood out to us was, you know, things that seem like big, heavy lifts to us. They were just, you know, waving their hand at. They’re Disney after all. And so, it sort of made us sort of always challenge us, like, wow, we think too small, you know, that's something that's possible. And that was really cool.

But then their ability to respond to what their client asked and work so quickly to make it happen really, really inspired and sort of changed us and made us, honestly working with them was probably part of what led us to realizing that the quality of our environments would be so important to our future. But what really stood out was there was a moment where we were getting pretty close event time, and then we were designing this escape from experience inside of a bigger experience. And the call came and said the client actually wants there to be two of these because they want to race. And our reaction would have been, well, it's a little too late for that. We can't double everything. And their reaction was like, okay, well, the way to make that work and I think just looking back, we're like, Wow, there is it seems so big, but they were like, No, this is what the client wants we'll redirect. Like, we'll find a way to make this thing happen.

And just, I guess the commitment to delivering what the client wanted, but also the flexibility and the ability to adapt so quickly to major changes. And the whole team just fell in line and executed this amazing, beautiful thing. It was really a great experience to get to see that so early in our creative journeys, in our journey as people who both build things, design things, getting to work with them early on, I think really shaped the way that we see the creative process and we see like what's possible. Like, you can sit down, and you can make something possible that might seem like this huge heavy lift requires hard work, detail, organization, all that stuff. But, you know, to get the right product, it's worth all that.

Daniel Burstein: To get the right product, it's worth all that. I love it and what's possible. So, you know, sometimes as a small startup, you don't realize what's possible until you kind of, you know, work with some of the bigger companies and see what they do. It reminds me of the story that's such a sad story, but the way in the circus that they would train elephants, you know, they would when the elephants were young and babies, they would put these really big heavy chains on the elephant’s leg, and the elephant would struggle against it and it would learn that, hey, you can't it can't escape the chain.

So, it's the point when the elephant got older to this giant, you know, powerful animal, all they would have to do is put a rope in a stake in the ground around it, which the elephant could easily pick up and run away. But they just kind of been trained to learn that limitation. I think within ourselves too within our organizations, we have these limitations that we think exist that we've kind of put in our mind, but they don't really when we challenge them.

And so that's great work with a big brand like Disney and working with Ray, there to learn like, hey, this isn't a limitation. It's a limitation we put in place ourselves. So, let's talk about another big major company you worked with where you learned from this person was Bellinda Minkner, a Project Head at PwC, and you learned that details matter. So how did you learn that details matter?

Jonathan Murrell: Yeah, that's very thankful to have also gotten to work with Belinda and PwC, and I'm the kind of person who and my team knows, knows about me that I'm really good at the first 90% of something. And I'm the kind of person who kind of let some of those details in the last ten start to slide. And we were doing this really large in-person custom activation in partnership with them and just got to see like the, the level of attention to detail that they put into it.

Every time our team would circle after, we were like no wonder they are the company they are. Because every person we were interacting with had this excellence that was such a high bar of excellence, and so I think the big lesson, you know, so in general we saw this excellence level that inspired our whole team. But then from a practical perspective, we were still a young organization trying to figure out how do we and one of the biggest challenges we face as a company was how do we actually produce this stuff?

Because we produce our stuff ourselves, build stores, get those stores out to market in any kind of timely and forecastable fashion. Like we had to figure out how to be both an operating company and a production company at the same time. And so, we were figuring out front line operations and how to run a retail experiential business while simultaneously, because of our commitment to quality, we realized we couldn't outsource this.

We had to develop a production manufacturing facility that could do all this stuff. And, you know, today we have a 20,000 square foot warehouse with 30 craftsmen and artists and who churn out, you know, theses world class escape rooms. But back then we were just figuring out what it meant to build stuff ourselves. And so one of the biggest takeaways we have from the PwC relationship was how they planned the project, and it was about a six month planning process and they brought all the stakeholders together. But then every week there was a cadence and a rhythm for how those meetings went. And then as we got closer to the event, that cadence started to increase in frequency. And all stakeholders were included and when we finished that event we were like, we've got to make some changes to the way that we plan for deployments because our store deployments were sort of famous for, it's my fault,  for just being disaster zones we would eventually get them open, but it was just like dump three semi-truck's worth of stuff, 20 guys, three weeks and hope that all the games get finished. And it was just this chaos was happening. And then stakeholders in other departments, whether it was marketing or operations would hear things at the last minute not get communicated to well and we're like, this isn't working and this is not going to work at scale.

Like we can build one store every quarter at this pace or one store every six months doing it this way. But we can't scale this thing and we're not going to be able to eventually build this year. We're going to build eight stores and it's not really going to be it's going to be hard. Everything's hard, but it's not a challenge. It's not something that's going to stop us from our growth objectives. And so, we figure it out, fortunately.

But a big part of that goes back to that relationship. You know watch PwC, we said we got to copy something about their communication and their rhythms. And so now here we are trying to copy them where once a project becomes official every single week, all the stakeholders on that project are meeting as we get closer to a job where the install teams are going out that meeting frequency increases and the communication is just massively improved as we've now sort of mimicked this process of what they were planning was a big event. What we're planning is they were planning a big event with a thousand attendees. We're planning a big event where we come and do this very complex install. So, we kind of just mimic that process as we've gotten to see huge impact. Where I no longer get late night irritated phone calls from other stakeholders like, hey, this date change and I never found out about it. Now everybody's in the loop. Everybody knows what's happening and we’re thankful to have been exposed to some real high quality professional event and project planners early on as we were developing our own systems.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I mean, if you're the founder of a startup and you're looking like, Okay, how do I make that next leap? You know, people talk about all these different things that really takes to get to that next level. You cashflow can be a limiter and know definitely finding talent can be a limiter. Like for ad agencies, I found it's about 15 or 20 people that, you know, you can get to that size before you really need to be able to understand how to get to the next level of talent. And I think the real differentiator is process. Like if you want to grow and get to that next level, it's not the fun, exciting sparkly thing, but it's getting that process to be able to consistently produce high quality to grow your team and to do all those things.

So that was a great opportunity for you. Jonathan to see PwC and when the real, you know, service leaders in the industry to see how they did processes up close so that you can replicate that and get to that next level of growth. So the last person we are going to learn from, not someone, you know personally, but learning from content, which is fine. Hopefully everyone listening to this podcast is learning from Jonathan. We’ll have a future podcast where you talk about Jonathan is one of the people you learn from. But it's Ed Catmull, the author of the Creativity Inc book, and you said from Ed you learned all creative processes start as ugly babies. I love this. So what will this mean to you and your career and how you work?

Jonathan Murrell: Yeah, absolutely. I think this may be the book that I've given away the most. I always keep a stack of copies with me and I hand them out like candy because I've never read a book that impacted sort of my thinking about creating things as much as this did. But yeah, I read it probably five times in the first three years of this great game.

But this idea that he says, which is all creative works, you know, scripts, movies, stories, whatever they are, they start out as ugly babies. They start out unformed, pretty like useless. I have two small children, and when they're really small, they just kind of don't know what they want. They cry. And he's like, that's what, you know, it's a and these things have the potential and will become these adults who are great and they're mature and they have this great future in front of them.

But when they're really small, they take a lot of shaping and crafting and patience. And you've got to really invest in getting them from, you know, ugly baby stage into beautiful adult stage. And so this metaphor of like all things start kind of bad that you have to shape, really impacted the way that we put words to a sort of our process for creative designing for games.

And so if someone was asking me the other day like, hey, how, you know, we just released the new title called Timeline is like, you know, how like when you released it, was it a good game? I like it was a good game. We released it, but it wasn't a good game when we first started testing it, like the first version of that game that the first team came through, we didn't charge them, but they played it and like there was a lot that we had to change and that's been a key part of TEG. Like, we don't expect to throw out the first version of Game and it to be good. We expect like, it's an ugly baby at the beginning and so we get a game and we spent six months getting to a point where we can, we put it in front of the guest, but once we do, there's this moment where it's always a hard moment. We've done it so many times, but it's always really hard for the thing that you put six months into to be perceived and get all that feedback that it's really not as good as you thought it was. And we have two choices in that moment. We can either decide that we know better, that we are blind to all the problems in this game and take it to market, or we can humbly take feedback and go through an iterative process of making it better.

And so I think that it really requires a discipline and the site, you have to know that everything starts out ugly and it makes you feel better that you aren't a loser because your first game wasn't good, that it's now how do we buckle into this process and change all the things that we heard feedback on? Then do it again. And change all the things, then do it again. And it's demoralizing to walk away from one of those feedback sessions. It just is. And have a list of 70 things that you've got to change about the thing that you work so hard on.

But if you can have the humility to do that, then you're doing it just a little bit better and then better and better and better and better. And by the time that we finally get done with that cycle and there's no prescribed notion for us, how many times do we do that feedback? But there get’s to a point where we all look at each other and say This thing is now really working the way we want it to, the way we believe our guests deserve for it to work. Now let's throw the doors open, take it to the public and let it, you know, let it do its thing. And so I think it really helps us because I think if it weren't for that sort of mental model of understanding that it's okay for the first version to be not great, I think some people throw up the first version. They put so much into it , and say great let's take it to the public. And whether they just didn't have time or the resources or the, you know, the humility to accept that it's probably not perfect on first draft, the world deserves something better than that first draft. And so I think we've just been really committed to let's get it where it needs to be before we take it to market.

And there's no way to do that other than just iterative feedback, humility, hard work, iterative feedback, rinse and repeat. And I think that's, you know, shaped and defined our product, which is at the core of what we're really offering the guest is these amazing interactive experiences are only amazing if they're well-designed and well-designed, well-built, well-located.

Daniel Burstein: They're only amazing if they're amazing. You know, the thing we talk about with a digital experience, we have a customer's A/B testing is a great thing to do, right? You can just on your e-commerce landing page, you can have two different headlines and test them, on your lead generation landing page and you can test different forms and different buttons. So how are you testing that in-person experience? The one thing you mentioned to me is, you know, by the time it rolls out to paid customers, so who are those first people that are experiencing it? How are you finding them? How are you getting their feedback? How does that work?

Jonathan Murrell: Yeah, so I can go even further back there. Our whole process of creating a new title starts really a data driven is we can make it. And so we start by selecting a group of themes and then we sort of survey both guests and the general public around these themes to say you know, if you're an escape room enthusiast, what do you want to see next? If you've never played escape from before, but you're on the fence, what might draw you in?

And we do this process of surveying to understand what kinds of titles or concepts the world really wants. So our testing starts back with any theme selection. But once you've got a theme and once we've built the first prototype, we basically just bring in employees, friends, family, anyone that we can get in the door. Sometimes we even open it up wider. And we’ll go on and send an email, social media and invite any locals to come test it out.

And so the key for us is like it's not ready to take paid guests yet, but we want that in the early cycles. We want to be probably employees because we want a certain type of feedback . Then we’ve brought in that to friends and family of employees, because we want to get honest feedback from third parties, but we aren't quite ready to like let it go beyond the sphere where we have a little bit of influence.

Daniel Burstein: Our brand is still ugly we don't want too many people to see it yet, right.

Jonathan Murrell: Yeah. And so we're like, we're like we don't want to ruin their, their perception of our company yet, but then the circle of who were willing to bring in the demos begins to widen as we begin to get more feedback. And the thing is getting better and better. So, and again, it can vary between, you know, how many of those games do we run. But what it really looks like is we'll get eight people in a room. We'll have instead of game guiding from the control room, we'll actually have one of our game team designers in there. So he's taking notes and he's watching. The rest of us are huddled over a computer watching it there. We're getting feedback both from what they tell us, but a lot of feedback from what we're watching them do.

What are they noticing? What are they not noticing? What are they interacting with? How long are they taking to solve this clue versus that clue are they making these connections. And so we're just we're watching and note-taking and then we're debriefing afterward and over and over and over again. And it's small things that we change sometimes is a big thing. Sometimes it's small things. Sometimes we like redo whole props or remove whole props or game, what we call game components, Sometimes it's, you know, turning a light to put a little bit more focus on a corner of the room and spotlight a little bit better. Sometimes it's adding a sound effect so there's some feedback when a motion is taken. And so the types of changes where tweaking can vary from really large to seemingly really small, but our goal is to dial it all in so that it's as immersive and effective as possible.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. You know, if you're a creative professional out there, if you haven't even gotten into field yet, you want to be a creative professional. Sometimes from the outside you think, Oh, it's just the single spark of genius. And that's what makes this creative thing. And know, in our recent podcast, we learn from the CMO of Saatva Joe McCambley. He was telling us, h, when I was an advertising copywriter, there were 99 ideas that I threw out for every idea that ran. And so I think this is another great lesson from you for that in-person experience. What does it take to create a great creative in-person experience? Not just having that great idea is, boy, that significant testing and feedback you do, that's great.

Jonathan Murrell: We have a lot of ideas that never make it to the game, that's for sure.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, absolutely. The cutting room floor. So thanks for sharing a lot of the lesson you’ve learned, a lot of stories, the last thing I want to leave people with this answer to a simple question, yet not so simple. In your opinion, Jonathan, what are the key qualities of an effective marketer.

Jonathan Murrell: Yeah, that's a great question. I think we think about marketing and our team. I think two things like stand out to me as, and I've been good at one, and I've been okay the other. But I'm learning that I have to get better at the other. But I say curiosity and consistency. And so I think the curiosity part to me is as a marketer, as anyone doing creative work, you've got to be curious and constantly learning. You're curious about what are the guests enjoying about this game. You're curious about what marketing is working, what do our guests do before or after the experience? So all those questions are questions driven by curiosity about as many things as we can be curious about as possible, I think inform us.

But then the other side of the consistency, I think that my personality is a little bit like I'm curious about something I really dig into it and then I want to just go after it all the way. And what that can result in is feeling like the team is being zig zagged between priorities. And so how do you both be really curious and dig, but then also have the consistency and discipline to once you set a plan, run with that plan so a team can feel like they're being well communicated to and have clarity. And so I think the curiosity is so critical, but we've got to figure out how to pair and balance that with consistent direction and plan. And then, you know, I think those are the combination of those two can make for a great marketing team.

Daniel Burstein: That's good. And that's I think our challenge as a marketer, how do we find that right balance? We have such a unique profession where we're making all these interesting things, but at the end of the day, we've got to be able to produce them. We've got to be all to get results from them. And that does take consistency.

Jonathan Murrell: Absolutely

Daniel Burstein: All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Jonathan I learned so much.

Jonathan Murrell: Thank you for having me. That was fun.

Daniel Burstein: And hey, thanks to thanks to everyone for listening. Hope you learned a lot too.

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