Marketing lecturer journeys into transformational experiences in New Zealand

Posted on February 16, 2024

Dr Bianca Frost, a lecturer in the Department of Marketing Management, was honoured to receive the Stephan and Pierre Viljoen Award in 2023. This honour unfolded into a unique opportunity to travel across continents and participate in the 7 Experience Summit 2023, hosted at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand from 28 November to 1 December 2023.
The Stephan and Pierre Viljoen Award is a prestigious award adjudicated annually to a PhD student or lecturer active in the field of marketing management at the University of Pretoria. By investing in the academic development of such individuals, the award contributes to the overall growth and relevance of the Department of Marketing Management.
Today consumers are increasingly investing more in experiences and as such, experience research is a growing field. Experience research is not only relevant, but also essential for modern marketing. It empowers marketers to build stronger connections with their audience, create meaningful brand experiences, and ultimately drive business success. Human experiences are studied in many disciplines, but the related theories, methodologies and concept definitions are not actively shared across disciplinary borders.
The Experiences Research Society (also known as EXPRESSO), is a global community of academics and practitioners in various fields of experience design. The mission of the society is to bring together minds from diverse disciplines to foster collaboration and establish a solid multidisciplinary foundation for experience research.
In 2021, the first 7XSummit took place virtually. Various connections were formed and in 2022 the summit grew to a hybrid format, where the live event took place at Brigham Young University in Utah, USA. This was followed by the 2023 event, which took place in New Zealand.
The 2023 summit, themed "Transformational experiences beyond borders: Partnership development for sustainable futures", brought together individuals from across the globe, representing – among others – countries such as Finland, Australia, the USA and India. Cutting-edge topics of discussion spanned across areas such as event experiences, placemaking, architecture and design, hospitality and tourism, experiential learning and education, food experience, nature-based adventure and metaverse experiences. 
Dr Frost actively contributed to the summit by presenting her research centred around understanding key drivers of transformative learning experiences in marketing education. Based on the experience design framework developed by Prof Mat Duerden (who also attended the summit), Dr Frost’s research indicates that designing memorable and meaningful learning experiences through engaging in practical community-based projects, may potentially lead to transformative behaviours that promote socially responsible practices among future marketing practitioners. 

From left: Prof Mat Duerden (Brigham Young University, USA); Prof Virpi Roto (Aalto University, Finland); Dr Bianca Frost (University of Pretoria, South Africa); and Prof Brian Hill (Brigham Young University, USA)

In addition to intellectually stimulating research presentations, there were many interactive workshop sessions. Some which stood out included designing a theme park in one hour, and exploring fragrance design as a dynamic tool for enhancing experiences, where participants were able to create their own fragrance, allowing participants to delve into the creative process.
“Another flavourful session worth highlighting was on the impact of auditory cues on flavour perception and emotions during food consumption. Participants engaged in a sensory lab experiment with chocolate ice cream, exploring the interplay of auditory stimuli and flavour perception,” said Dr Frost, adding that the research was most fascinating (and rather tasty too).
The relevance of artificial intelligence (AI) in experience design was another front-line topic, where Dr Linus Tan demonstrated the use of generative AI to speculate future experiences. Perhaps the highlight of the summit was the opportunity to visit a Pop-up Globe and engage in a personalised HyperCinema experience. Participants had the unique opportunity to become movie stars of their own show, exploring the evolving landscape of experiential storytelling.
The HyperCinema provides a revolutionary visitor storytelling experience powered by generative AI. At HyperCinema, visitors are turned into the heroes of their own brand stories and visitors’ photos and data are transferred into immersive narratives for personalised experiences (see for more information). Bianca Frost transformed into a movie icon at the HyperCinema experiences and featured in a number of customised short films, news stories and advertisements in this life-like but virtual world.
Participating in a research hackathon added another layer to the conference experience. Dr Frost joined fellow researchers in collaborative efforts, potentially shaping future research endeavours and contributing to the collective pursuit of knowledge.
In expressing her gratitude, Dr Frost extends sincere thanks to the Viljoen family for their generous award. Their support made it possible for her not only to attend but also to actively contribute to the 7 Experience Summit 2023. This experience serves as a testament to the significance of recognising and supporting academic excellence, enabling scholars to explore, share, and contribute to the global discourse on transformative experiences.
- Author Department of Marketing Management

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