What does that mean – “experience the brand?” After all, a brand is not a tangible item; it’s an identity. Brand is everything. There’s a reason why it’s often the most valuable asset on the balance sheet and why companies spend so much time, energy, and money cultivating their brand’s image. Take a minute to think about the most recognized brand names in the world. What’s the first thing you think of? How does that brand make you feel? What are you visualizing?
With countless products and services saturating the market, it is more important than ever to establish deep connections with consumers to build their trust and loyalty. I cannot emphasize enough how important these pillars are for Falcon’s. Even with that very first project for iXL, we were laser-focused on learning everything we could about their brand - who they were, who their customers were, how they wanted people to view them, what made them tick. We immersed ourselves in their brand identity, which helped us design a memorable experience that ingrained iXL’s corporate messaging and positioning into visitors’ minds. It even culminated with a tangible object embossed with their logo floating into guests’ hands.
That initial job trained us to become experts at understanding branding and intellectual property. Additionally, it illustrated to our potential clients how Falcon’s could meaningfully utilize a brand’s unique identity to deliver a physical space that incorporated powerful visuals and strategic content to establish a direct connection to the brand itself, hence the term “experience the brand.”
That 10-letter word, “experience,” is deeply embedded in our Falcon’s DNA. We know how crucial it is to engage all of one’s senses. We know that every experience must pack an emotional punch. We know that storytelling is a massive part of the equation. These are the common denominators that exist in all the different types of guest experiences that we create. Even when we are working on a corporate brand design, we apply these foundational elements to the project plan.
For me, though, it goes beyond these ingredients. I really enjoy seeing how we put our minds together to devise ingenious ways to design corporate brand experiences using non-traditional techniques. I equate it to next-gen magic. You might not grasp how the illusionist made something remarkable happen, like disappearing a famous landmark, but you can certainly appreciate and marvel at the end result, and you know that only a handful of people in the world could pull off such a feat. I feel that way about our team.
After the success of the iXL project, Falcon’s landed multiple brand experience design contracts. We worked closely with Hard Rock on several projects that were important undertakings in our history. First came The Hard Rock Vault, a location-based entertainment destination in Orlando, Florida that gave the museum world a shot in the arm. The entrance ticket served as a gateway to rock ‘n roll’s scintillating past, where its spirit shined brightly through a variety of strategically designed, immersive vignettes. The material treasures were carefully sculpted into a story that transported guests to other eras, like the punk rock explosion, the British invasion, and the trippy psychedelic wave.
Our client loved the spin we put on the iconic collection (excuse the pun!) so they came back to us when they wanted to take the show on the road, literally! Our task for The Hard Rock Vault Traveling Tour was to design the vignettes in such a way that made them safe for traveling inside of a double expandable trailer. The impressive, gorgeously branded semi rolled into multiple U.S. cities, giving guests around the country a chance to experience this incomparable collection while still enjoying the storytelling aspects of the physical location in Orlando, albeit within a smaller footprint. Falcon’s was hired for not one of these tours but two!
What made this experience even more special was a sponsorship tie-in with AT&T Wireless and Nokia. In the final room, guests were introduced to the companies’ innovative technology that would bring more convenience to everyday life. A large monitor embedded within a gigantic eight-foot-tall Nokia cell phone featured the amazing capabilities of AT&T’s mLife service, a new way for people to connect with friends and family. We collaborated on other branded tie-ins that allowed guests to forge an even deeper connection to the one-of-a-kind exhibition-on-wheels.
Our AT&T connection didn’t start with our work for Hard Rock. Several of our key team members had worked closely with Walt Disney Imagineering to produce AT&T’s New Global Neighborhood at EPCOT. That led to more work with Disney and another collaboration with AT&T for their space at Disneyland’s Innoventions pavilion.
Innoventions focused on advancements in technology and how those innovations could be seamlessly weaved into everyday life. During the lengthy run of Innoventions, many companies sponsored the exhibit, meaning their brand was front and center. Their well-known identity helped determine the look of the whole experience, but the feel was up for interpretation. Knowing how much exposure they would have, these high-profile companies needed to fully trust the experience design firm they hired. AT&T chose Falcon’s Treehouse because they knew, based on past experience, that we could tell an authentic story while subtly promoting their brand, entertaining the masses, and giving guests a reason to fondly remember their visit. We did all of this while purposefully designing an experience that showcased our client’s core messaging: that their technologically advanced broadband applications could positively impact the lives of every consumer.
For the space itself, Falcon’s designed and installed a new exhibit that centered around a high-definition theatre. We produced digitally composited content and an interactive polling system, that, when combined with the motion seats, absorbing soundtrack, and theatrical lighting effects, provided guests with a mind-blowing experience like nothing they had ever encountered.
AT&T’s Webopolis at Innoventions was not the first branded pavilion that Cecil D. Magpuri, Falcon’s founder, designed. For the 1996 World City Expo, hosted by Tokyo, Japan, Cecil provided his client, Coca-Cola (there’s that name again!) with a first-of-its-kind-in-the-world venue design that gave guests the freedom to choose their own journey’s path. But the simulator-based ride experience was built for another reason - to give guests the sensation of flight, which is another form of freedom. This overarching message of freedom tied directly into Coca-Cola’s image branding and supported their stance that freedom is a basic right and principle for every human being on the planet.
When we design such spaces, we innately know what will work from a guest flow perspective. We’ve laid pen to paper countless times to draw up bubble diagrams and master plans. For us, that part of the process just comes naturally. What’s different every time is the client and their goals. We always want to create something special that’s not born from a cookie cutter approach. This is especially true for a corporate design because every company has their own specific set of components beyond just their visual identifiers. We envelope ourselves in everything they represent, everything they want to be, and everyone they want to reach.
There are times when an experiential corporate design blends with a retailtainment concept. In another one of our early projects, we were tasked with presenting a concept design to a client who was looking for something much more than a typical brick-and-mortar shopping experience. They were building a themed destination that would become the building blocks of their brand.
We delivered a written treatment that mapped out the entire storyline, which included a pre-show, multi-media elements, interactives, queue line entertainment, environmental elements, photo-ops, a post-show, and other immersive experiences. We also designed the storefront, introduced the client to the characters who would play key roles in the guest experience, and produced two conceptual logo designs for alternate names for the space. This was in addition to the rest of the typical items delivered during the concept design phase, such as boards showing the perspectives of each main area, a spatial plan, key art, and elevations.
All of these experiences allowed guests to have fun while immersing themselves in a brand. There was no overly persistent salesperson needling them to make a purchase or sign up for a service. They just got to live in the moment and discover something new while forming a lasting attachment to the brand. On that note, it’s time for me to refill my Coca-Cola tumbler with some dark, bubbly stuff. Cheers!
Executive VP of Operations