Many parallels have been drawn between the adrenaline rush that e-gaming effects and that of gaming at casinos. In a bid to keep millennials engaged, more has to be done to curate distinct experiences in order to retain their interest. Following a compact construction turnover period of two years from conceptualization to launch, General Manager of Zouk Genting, Joseph Ryan, managed to pull together seven distinctive, experiential lifestyle concepts with the help of his team and with the support of Zouk Group’s CEO, Andrew Li.
Two nightclubs, two bars, two dining outlets and a popular karaoke outlet are all housed within a massive two-storey 50,000 sqft entertainment hub at Resorts World Genting, an hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. More recently, to get Zouk’s follower-base active as we work-from-home, he has curated different fitness workouts led by Jean Liew and Alando Atkinson, which feature three-hours of non-stop hits courtesy of Zouk Live, reminiscent of 70s hip-hop and “hallowed Michael Jackon’s Thriller” beats that is catered for the masses.
Joseph, who hails from UK and once used to work for Chinawhite, which Madonna championed; and GP Management that activated F1 events, is no stranger to the entertainment scene. When faced with the task of shifting the perception that Resorts World Genting is solely for the older demographic, he engaged Korean DJ, Sura, who played crowd-pleasing sets to a 7,000 strong-crowd for the recent Zouk Live festival held at the atrium of the casino’s mall. It was developed as a lifestyle festival that comprised of 2 hours of fitness, 3 hours of dance classes followed by 3 more hours of DJ sets. If you preferred you can stay at the hotel room and play at the online casino and have fun.
“DJ Sura is Korean, and Korean culture has a huge following in Malaysia, and she was one of the hosts that we are working with. In 2019 we welcomed Hyo from Girls Generation, and this year we are welcoming DJ Siena also. The event was special as we saw all age groups take part and enjoy a host of activities together.” – Joseph Ryan
With a positive outlook, he looks beyond the COVID-19 crisis and shares his plans to create “Mystical Jungle”, a super car rally and excitement to grow Zouk Symphony throughout the resort, hoping to “welcome everyone to come and forget about the stresses and difficulties of life”. He shares with us what his guiding ethos was in planning the space and how he managed to pull off a large-scale project in such a short period of time.
Popspoken: What was your guiding ethos when planning for the new space?
Joseph Ryan: “How easy, enjoyable and convenient is the customer experience?” is the first mantra that I believe in. In essence, the easier the product is to use and understand, the faster the consumer can adapt to it. The wow factor and sensory showcasing leads to enjoyment, which encourages the consumer to build emotional connections in the form of memories and hopefully recommend your space to others. The convenience of the user journey eliminates frustration and encourages the consumer to return.
The second golden mantra I live by is “What is the story being told?” – story telling is invaluable in the consumer journey, as it gives helps them to develop an affiliation to the brand in their subconscious. As soon as you arrive in the Zouk Atrium you are greeted by friendly staff, and the cheers of people playing giant pong at RedTail, which generally leads to a smile. From there you look around and see a mysterious entrance to Fuhu restaurant, masked as an apothecary shop which leads to intrigue. Lastly you lay eyes on the impressive Zouk Genting sign next to the palatial entrance doors, giving a glimpse at the magnitude of our superclub. Every layout perspective is thought through from start to finish.
Popspoken: Tell us more about life up on Genting Highlands. Could you outline some of the challenges you faced and how you overcame them?
Joseph Ryan: Resorts World Genting is a special place. Developed by the founder over 50 years ago, it is an icon within Malaysia, and an institution that many Malaysians hold dear as they have visited for generations. There are also staff with strong ties to the company and its ‘family first’ ethos, having worked here for more than 30 years in some cases.
When I first moved here and told people I was building a superclub an hour from KL, and 6,000 feet in the sky within a resort that was generally associated with the older generation, I was told I was mad, ‘it will never work’, and ‘it’s potential career suicide’. What followed was an intensive marketing push to redefine the way that people viewed Genting Highlands, and I aimed to take every preconception of Genting and use to my advantage. The expectations of what we could do were so low, such that when we launched people were blown away. In my eyes, why would you want to go out in KL, have to worry about the weather, traffic, hunt for a taxi, time lost in travelling from home, to drinks, to dinner to clubbing and then the risks of travelling home. I can get you from your hotel to RedTail, Fuhu and Zouk all in 100 steps. Best of all you will be safely back in bed in under 5 minutes. A home away from home. I’m proud to say that last year, 150,000 millennials enjoyed our outlets. More so we curated a 7,000 person Zouk Live festival. This inspires us to keep striding forward.
Popspoken: What are the differences between Zouk Genting and your sister club in Kuala Lumpur?
Joseph Ryan: We have an outdoor marquee allowing us to create festivals and conferences, as well as endless amount of land to curate fitness activities. The proximity of hotels, numerous F&B offerings, the indoor and outdoor theme parks, Void VR enclosure and golf track allow us to curate a whole weekend.
Zouk Genting has the fortune of being a lot more modern, with the most cutting edge in audio, visual and lighting offerings. We also have the luxury of space, with the option of being able to open our main room into a huge superclub thanks to an interfoldable wall panel that normally separates both clubs: Empire and Zouk. We have a greater variety of options with a games lounge, sports bar, karaoke, vibe dining restaurant, club lounge, super club and soon to be launched Five Guys burger joint all in the same vicinity. There are many nightclubs, but Zouk Genting is an experience and that is what makes us special.
Popspoken: Resorts World Genting is known to attract a demographic that is slightly older. What is Zouk Genting’s role in shaping a new lifestyle experience for millennials? What strategies does your team employ to shift this perception, so as to get young millennials up to stay and party for the weekend?
Joseph Ryan: The Zouk brand is very much inclusive, rather than exclusive, so we manage to cater for everyone. We recently hosted the Zouk Symphony, a 50 dancer flash mob guided by our resident DJ and MC under the 100 ft high definition screens and light ball show in the Sky Atrium of the Sky Avenue mall in Genting. Over 600 people came to enjoy the spectacle, watching from every floor of the mall, and the most touching part was watching both uncles and aunties, and young children dance along to and with the dancers. This is something special that we as a team hold dear, and shows the length of our integration to the resorts demographic as a whole.
To understand the millennial market we need to listen to the millennial market, and I am so lucky to work with an incredible team of young talent. Alex and Mei, our marketing and strategy teams are very in tune with what is happening in multiple markets, and Nigel and Elaine are the very best production team I have ever worked with. They are maximising the potential of our outlets, and their ideas keep me inspired every day.
Popspoken: Since Genting is known as a weekend destination for Malaysians, how do you get the dancefloor filled on weekdays? Which is the next nationality that you see most often partying at the venue, aside from Malaysians?
Joseph Ryan: For this specific reason we designed and built a smaller club: Empire. A club lounge, with inspiration from New York’s 90’s hip hop clubs, Empire caters for up to 600 people from Sunday to Thursday. In the resort we host a lot of conferences, team building groups, international tourists and day trippers and so Empire is regularly busy. Empire also has an inter-foldable acoustic wall that can be opened to reveal Zouk for the ultimate club room.
The resort is very popular in Asia, with visitors coming from every major Asian country, and with the new theme park offering, it is starting to be an attraction for Australians, Kiwis and Europeans.
Image credit: Empire Zouk Genting