EXPY & EMA Awards

The Start of a Tradition

Between 1998 and 2017, as experiences proliferated in industry after industry, certain organizations and individuals demonstrated exceptional skill in envisioning, designing, and staging truly memorably and innovative experiences. Pine & Gilmore established the annual Experience Stager of the Year (EXPY) and Experience Management Achievement (EMA) awards that were given out during their annual thinkAbout event. The Experience Stager and Management awards were dedicated to recognizing these stalwart trailblazers.

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

The Experience Stager and Management awards were utterly unique, individually cast in solid brass by master artisan Trace Guthrie. Each weighing nearly 10 pounds, the EXPY was a 3-D interpretation of the commedia dell’arte performer on the original cover of The Experience Economy, while the EMA represented the book’s influence on award winners.

Awards & Winners

The EXPY Award

First commissioned in 1999, the EXPY was, by all accounts, the first award ever established to specifically honor excellence in experience staging. Pine & Gilmore awarded 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. The EXPY award was given each year to a company that stood head and shoulders above its competition in applying the principles of the Experience Economy to its business.

EXPY Recipients


Carnival Corp. | Doral, FL

For innovating the Ocean Medallion IoT device (and associated software & hardware) that enables it to mass customize its cruise experiences to each individual guest.


Pirch | San Diego, CA

For creating an appliance store where consumers interact with and directly experience the merchandise.


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.


The U.S. Army | Washington D.C.

For reimagining the recruiting experience through AmericasArmy.com and its Army Experience Center.


Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum | Springfield, IL

For bringing the latest in technology and experience design into an increasingly stale industry.


TST, Inc. | Fort Collins, CO

For turning their offices into the Engineerium, a B2B experience that truly engages business clients.


Cereality | Scottsdale, AZ

For answering the question, What is to breakfast cereal as Starbucks is to coffee?


HOK Sport + Venue + Event (now Populous) | Kansas City, KS

For expertise blending the natural with the artificial in placemaking.


Charthouse Learning | Burnsville, MN

For helping workers around the world to truly understand that work IS theatre through its Fish! offerings.


Cerritos Library | Cerritos, CA

For integrating architecture, theming, design, technology, and human performances to create an engaging educational experience.


LEGO Group | Billund, Denmark

For a portfolio of marketing experiences that exemplifies all ten levels of the Placemaking Portfolio.


Joie de Vivre Hospitality | San Francisco, CA

For its insightful and effective approach to theming.


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 Award

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.

EMA Recipients


Ty Koon | Lawton Connect

For succeeding and growing in the increasingly commoditized printing business by embracing principles of the Experience Economy in marketing, sales, strategy, and even operations.


Gerry Givnish & Jim Cummings | Life Celebration

For transforming the staid industry of funeral homes into one dedicated to creating memorable experiences through designing, creating, and shipping mass customized memorial products.


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.


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.


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.


Laila Pawlak and Kris Østergaard | DARE2

For their work advancing the Experience Economy, especially through the creation of the DARE2mansion, a professional hub and playground in Copenhagen, Denmark, bringing together a diverse group of emerging entrepreneurs and free agents, in the business community and academia.


Shareef Mahdavi | SM2 Strategic (now at ALPHAEON Corporation)

For being the leading voice and advocate for improving the patient experience in the refractive eye-surgery industry.


Mark Greiner | Steelcase/Workspring

For being the leading voice and advocate for improving the patient experience in the refractive eye-surgery industry.


Amy Sanders | American National Bank of Texas (now at Amy Sanders Experience Design & Consulting)

For leading development of ANBTX’s Dream Membership and Dream Centers for small business owners.


Doug Johnson | General Growth Properties (now at The Advisory Board Company)

For development of the seasonal Santastic Christmas experiences at General Growth Properties malls.


Steve Dragoo | Solutions Consulting, Inc

For advances in training grocery store employees to stage engaging experiences.


Jeff Kallay | TargetX (now at Render Experiences)

For redesigning the on-campus college recruiting tour experience for countless universities.


Gary Adamson, Starizon Studio, and Sonia Rhodes | Sharp Health Care (now at The Advisory Board Company)

Awarded jointly for, respectively, founding Starizon Studio, the Experience Design Place in Keystone, Colorado, that transforms companies into premier experience stagers, and the Sharp HealthCare Experience and University that has ignited the fires of a great patient and employee experiences at Sharp.