Zouk Group has only just begun to reap the rewards of its labor from seeds planted decades ago. With the industry relationships and wealth of experience needed to facilitate their mission of international expansion, the brand is a global household name in waiting.
But until recently, most Western audiences have never heard of it.
Originally rooted in Singapore, Zouk is now amplifying its illustrious portfolio in the U.S. for the first time, testing the waters in none other than Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world. Zouk's arrival, part of Sin City's new $4.3 billion Resorts World complex, became a highly publicized endeavor overnight due to its affiliation with the first major development on the Las Vegas strip in over a decade.
As travel in the U.S. has opened back up, Resorts World and Zouk Group's shared parent company, Genting Group, is working to ensure U.S. consumers receive a prompt introduction to their brands by buying ad space coast-to-coast. The response thus far has been promising and provided the organization with the confidence to continue to scale rapidly as meaningful developments continue to take shape across the sprawling 88-acre property.
In its first three months of action, Resorts World has demonstrated success in dominating the attention economy on its own terms, even in the broader, frequently overstimulating environment of Las Vegas. With an array of upscale-casual and fine dining restaurant brands, a central casino, and stellar entertainment options, Resorts World curates an all-in-one experience with every reason to check in and no reason to leave.
Resorts World’s superior design and structural qualities are quintessentially embodied in Zouk's Ayu Dayclub, an open-air oasis that channels the exotic influences of a world away. "My first day at the company started with getting on a plane to Bali," Ronn Nicolli, Resorts World's VP of Nightlife and Lifestyle Marketing, tells EDM.com. "The meetings started with understanding goals, and the goal was authenticity. 'How can you create a space where someone feels transformed?'"
Inspired by the idyllic beach clubs of Bali, Ayu Dayclub connects concert-goers with performing artists, the natural world, and each other in a way that far transcends the everyday clubbing experience. With lush greenery, white sand-colored pool decks, and plush, wood-crafted cabanas, every aspect of Ayu Dayclub's concept and experience was designed to keep its visitors feeling connected with Zouk's storied history and immersed in the present.
Those feelings of immersion are magnified by the performances themselves, a rare quality for Las Vegas nightlife environments. While the default instinct in Las Vegas nightlife is to overstimulate to excess, it oftentimes has the effect of rendering the performance happening on stage an afterthought.
Conversely, Ayu's half-moon shaped design ensures that what's happening on stage is always the central focus, and with good reason. With a star-studded lineup of multi-year resident DJs including Zedd, Tiësto, and more, the club's setup ensures the artist and crowd are always in sync. From Zedd tee-ing up a memorable entrance with a gleeful champagne shower on the crowd to Tiësto's surprise birthday celebration for his manager featuring cake, shots, and Fathead's made in his image, the crowd maintained an electrifying energy from start to finish. "Visibility and connectivity of crowd energy were important to us," Nicolli says. "The show is only as good as the fanbase that's engaging with it."
Nicolli's strategic mindset when it comes to winning the long game is emblematic of Zouk's competitive advantage when it comes to delivering memorable experiences.
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What kind of sorcery is this?
"It was important to us to create a space that had an element of intimacy to it, but also had scalability. We can play in that same space with the mega beach clubs, but have the ability to scale down when needed," Nicolli explains. "It's this progressive nature. We get it that the Tiëstos and Zedds of the world at one point weren't the Tiëstos and Zedds of the world. So the question becomes, 'How do we create the best experience for that artist who is growing with us as we grow as a brand?'"
Over the course of its three decades of operations in Singapore, Zouk has established a level of trust and rapport with its artists. "I didn't initially realize the reputation Zouk had on the professional entertainment end until I started having conversations with agents," Nicolli recalled. "I didn't have to introduce the brand. They knew the brand... every agent I'm talking to had a Zouk experience as well. So when you talk about embarking on a new journey, I had already checked the boxes that made me feel confident about the success we were going to have."
Upon landing in Bali, Nicolli describes his first conversation about the brand with a new associate. "The gentleman says, 'I hear it's your first day at the company' and begins to tell me the story of how he met his wife at Zouk. That's my first peer-to-peer introduction to the brand," he recalls. "Then I go to Singapore... every time I told someone I worked at Zouk you saw their face. It was instantaneous, everyone had a Zouk story. There were so many of these meaningful moments that had happened around Zouk and the funny thing is when you talk to them about Zouk they reference that we're experience-makers, but then you hear it for yourself and realize it's real."
From the customer's standpoint, Zouk's unmatched hospitality in Singapore has fostered a deeply intertwined, culturally significant relationship with consumers. While the brand has gone on to expand, they still consider this ability to foster deep feelings of attachment to be among their most valuable exports.
For visitors looking to take in the complete Zouk experience as it was originally defined in Asia, Resorts World also includes Zouk's renowned Red Tail and FUHU dining brands for two unique twists on Asian cuisine. For those spending a night out at the club, dinner at FUHU, a luxury steakhouse and sushi establishment, is a must. Part of the cutting-edge "vibe dining" trend, the FUHU experience infuses the quality and cuisine of a traditional steakhouse with the invigorating atmosphere of a club.
Cherry blossoms adorn the entrance as the steady kicks of house music can be heard reverberating inside. Prepared by Executive Chef Joseph Elevado, signature dishes include the crispy garlic tuna roll, lobster soup dumplings, bone-in ribeye, and more. An enhanced cocktail menu complements the restaurant's nightclub ambience including a colorful cocktail recipe from Zedd himself that combines the cinnamon spice of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Fire with the tropical sweetness of passion fruit and peach flavors.
For an interactive dining experience, Red Tail offers customers in-venue sports betting, social gaming, and karaoke for entertainment. The menu includes an extensive list of beers and burgers including a mouth-watering Wagyu burger, and Killer Wings with on-the-bone, boneless, and vegan options.
While most of Sin City is selling consumers on a fantasy, the holistic Zouk experience stands out as an authentic and patently unique exploration of music and culture. Of course, following a lost year of entertainment, it's a particularly unique time for Zouk to embark on their most ambitious trial as a brand yet, given the continuously shifting macro-level landscape in the wake of the pandemic.
Although Zouk Group is relying on the tried and true methodologies and offerings that catapulted the brand to prominence in Asia, there's a shared understanding among leadership that the brand remains in a continuous state of evolution and adaptation.
"It's funny, you work on a horticulture plant and you want it to be perfect but you also understand that as much as we're putting into it people are going to walk through it and you just want to make sure it's not creating visible obstructions," Nicolli says. "Like a plant, Ayu is a living, breathing thing. We're continuing to evolve what's in that space to really heighten that authenticity."