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The Expy & The Ema

The EXPY & The EMA Awards

As experiences proliferate in industry after industry, certain organizations and individuals demonstrate exceptional skill in envisioning, designing, and staging truly memorably and innovative experiences. To recognize these stalwart trailblazers, Pine & Gilmore established the annual Experience Stager of the Year (EXPY) and Experience Management Achievement (EMA) awards.


By tradition, EXPY and EMA award recipients remain a closely guarded secret until officially announced at the annual Strategic Horizons thinkAbout. During the award presentation, Pine & Gilmore not only honor the winners but also interview them on stage for insights into their accomplishments.

Individually cast in solid brass by master artisan Trace Guthrie and each weighing nearly 10 pounds, the EXPY is a 3-D interpretation of the commedia dell’arte performer on the cover of The Experience Economy, while the EMA represents the book's influence on award winners.


The EXPY AwardThe EXPY

First commissioned in 1999, the EXPY is, by all accounts, the first award ever established to specifically honor excellence in experience staging. Pine & Gilmore award the EXPY each year at the culmination of their annual countdown of the “Top Ten Experiences of the Year” at thinkAbout, which highlights advances in the art and science of experience staging. For more about the genesis of the EXPY see “The Making of the EXPY”.


EXPY Recipients


Chick-fil-A, Atlanta, GA. For its rich mix of experiences layered atop its quick-service chicken restaurant chain.

SantaPark, Rovaniemi, Finland.  For its dedication to details and continuous consistent improvement in offering unique Christmas experiences in Santa’s "home cavern" in the Arctic Circle.
Tough Mudder LLC, New York, NY.  For creating a series of enormously popular (and physically challenging) events which appeal to personal transformation, and which act as powerful marketing experiences.
826 National, San Francisco, CA. For creating a network of writing and tutoring centers across the country that help under-resourced students explore their creativity and improve their writing skills..
TechShop, Menlo Park, CA. For creating membership-based workshops that give members access to tools and equipment, instruction, and a community of creative and supportive people so they can build the things they have always wanted to make.
Build-A-Bear Workshop, St. Louis, MO. For creating a global retail enterprise that exemplifies the principles of experience staging and design, including mass customizing.
2009 The U.S. Army, Washington D.C. For reimagining the recruiting experience through and its Army Experience Center.
2008 Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield, IL. For bringing the latest in technology and experience design into an increasingly stale industry.
2007 TST, Inc., Fort Collins, CO. For turning their offices into the Engineerium, a B2B experience that truly engages business clients.
2006 Cereality, Scottsdale, AZ. For answering the question, What is to breakfast cereal as Starbucks is to coffee?
2005 HOK Sport + Venue + Event (now Populous), Kansas City, KS. For expertise in blending the natural with the artificial in placemaking.
2004 Charthouse Learning Burnsville, MN.  For helping workers around the world to truly understand that work IS theatre through its Fish! offerings.
2003 Cerritos Library, Cerritos, CA. For integrating architecture, theming, design, technology, and human performances to create an engaging educational experience.
2002 LEGO Group, Billund, Denmark. For a portfolio of marketing experiences that exemplifies all ten levels of the Placemaking Portfolio.
2001 Joie de Vivre Hospitality, San Francisco, CA. For its insightful and effective approach to theming.
2000 Geek Squad, Minneapolis, MN. For turning a mundane service into an engaging encounter.
American Girl Place, Chicago, IL. For recognizing the value, even as a  manufacturer, of paid-for experiences.



The EMA AwardThe EMA

Sister award to the EXPY, the annual EMA was established by Pine & Gilmore in 2005 to recognize individual accomplishment in creating new-to-the-world experience offerings and approaches. In order to be eligible, EMA recipients must have participated in at least one thinkAbout.


EMA Recipients

2015 Jolene Dingler, The Prime Family of Companies. For her ingenious work in combining all manner of life experience moments -- from weddings to baby showers to college planning -- in order to significantly grow the core business of Prime Financial. 
2014 Greg Bogue, Maritz Travel Company. For his instrumental work in launching Maritz's Experience Innovation Lab, through which Maritz leads clients in rethinking how their events are designed and staged.
2013 Diane Stover-Hopkins, Beacon Health System.  For consistently leading change in the healthcare arena in the areas of patient and staff experiences, and encouraging the continued development of experience thinking among healthcare leaders
2012 Laila Pawlak and Kris Østergaard, DARE2. For their work advancing the Experience Economy, especially through the creation of the DARE2mansion which is a professional hub and playground bringing together a diverse group of emerging entrepreneurs and free agents, in the business community and academia.
2011 Shareef Mahdavi, SM2 Strategic. For being the leading voice and advocate for improving the patient experience in the refractive eye surgery industry.
2010 Mark Greiner, Workspring. For his vision in creating a B2B collaborative workspace that is truly worthy of being called an experience.
2009 Amy Sanders, American National Bank of Texas. For leading development of ANBTX’s Dream Membership and Dream Centers for small business owners.
2008 Doug Johnson, General Growth Properties. For development of the seasonal Santastic Christmas experiences at General Growth Properties malls.
2007 Steve Dragoo, Service Solutions Consulting, Inc. For advances in training grocery store employees to stage engaging experiences.
2006 Jeff Kallay, RenderFor redesigning the on-campus college recruiting tour experience. 
2005 Gary Adamson, Starizon, Inc. and Sonia Rhodes, Sharp Health Care. Awarded jointly for founding Experience Economy consulting firm Starizon and the Sharp Health Care Experience and University, respectively.


Who will be the next EXPY and EMA winners? Come to thinkAbout and find out!  Think you or someone you know is worthy of EXPY or EMA consideration?  Drop us a line and tell us more at