Let us look at the term Brand Experience. What exactly does that mean? In a broad sense, it is a way for people to engage with and even live within a brand for a small amount of time. Brand experiences can be implemented in countless ways. If you’ve ever been to Disney Springs or a place similar to it, you have seen it take shape as retailtainment. Falcon’s has designed and executed these types of retail spaces within theme parks. The Marvel-themed stores at IMG Worlds of Adventure are great examples of this type of implementation. Stores warp into more than just a place to pick up a few souvenirs. They become an experience all their own, blurring the line between retail and entertainment.
Location-based entertainment venues are another impactful way for companies to create memorable brand experiences and score new followers. Falcon’s collaborated with National Geographic and SPE Partners on their Times Square-based experience called Ocean Odyssey. For this encounter, the iconic brand and exploration powerhouse wanted to offer an immersive, underwater journey that would transport guests to extraordinary places and rarely witnessed moments in nature. New and exciting discoveries awaited guests at every station. Key steps of their journey were designed so that they could share moments they experienced at the attraction on their social media feeds. Perhaps the best example is the ability to capture a photo within the iconic yellow frame of the National Geographic brand. After all, stunning photography is something they are well known for, right?
A branded experience can even be based on the campus of the brand…literally! Early in our history, we designed a state-of-the-art theater at Savannah College of Art and Design. SCAD Sphere smashed the barrier between visual media and physical space. It introduced visitors to SCAD’s educational programs while reinforcing the college’s status as one of the most advanced in integrating new technology into the classroom and curriculum.
Experiences like these provide an opportunity to expand your fan base, exposing you to casual and curious observers who might not have been as aware of your brand before their memorable interaction, or their friend’s interaction, for that matter. Seeing someone you know having fun at location XYZ makes you want to go there, too.
Why is this type of engagement so important? With so many product offerings available to consumers, there needs to be a way to cut through all the noise and get noticed. Creating a space, no matter how large or small, provides an opportunity to emotionally link everything a guest sees, hears, touches, tastes, and even smells to that brand. In essence, it creates memories.
Our sensory inputs are inexorably linked to our memories and the feelings that accompany them. Imagine the smell of fresh popped popcorn wafting through the air. Where are you? Many people are probably picturing a very specific place, maybe even a special moment in time. While scent is the sense most often responsible for triggering vivid memories, combining it with rich visuals and soundscapes can weave a vibrant tapestry that bursts with life. Brand experiences that can deliver on multiple sensory levels allow consumers to create these kinds of great memories, while also connecting them with the way they were delivered.
One example we can point to in our own history is Webopolis, an AT&T-branded experience that was part of Disneyland’s Innoventions attraction. Falcon’s provided turnkey design and development for the queue, pre-show, theater, and post-show. Webopolis offered a plethora of highly immersive and creative environments. The use of innovative, cutting-edge technology was a given because of who our client was, but we wanted to utilize that special technology to tell an engaging story. Our design allowed guests to have a say in their journey. At critical moments during the show in the theater, guests were asked to vote on the direction they preferred, handing them a sense of control over the action on screen. Additionally, in the open space outside of the theater, guests could touch a large AT&T sphere, an element that appeared to float in mid-air. Their direct interaction had an almost magical effect on the light show that emanated from the globe.
There is a level of authenticity needed to establish a deeper connection. The most successful experiences directly reflect the soul of the brand they are associated with. Simply slapping a logo onto the front of a ride vehicle will not satisfy today’s hungry, sophisticated audiences. While most guests are not able to articulate why something feels off, they certainly feel it. For example, if a brand’s goal is to be a symbol of quality and excellence, the palette of experiences needs to feel bespoke with a degree of exclusivity.
Scale also plays a decisive role in crafting a brand experience. If a company wants to reach the maximum number of consumers, they need to think big. Conversely, another company may want to target a specific group, thereby focusing its efforts more directly. Consider who a company is targeting and how it ties into the greater context of the guests’ day; a quick trip to a pop-up or a branded party, a destination LBE or brand sponsored attraction in a theme park. Is this a once-a-month engagement or something a guest will dream of and plan towards? While the former can snag a good deal of spontaneous foot traffic in a short amount of time, the latter can score big crowds year after year.
There is a myriad of ways to establish this link. For the last half century or so, companies have sponsored attractions and post-show experiences, therefore owning a prominent voice as it relates to that experience. The latter allows companies to capitalize on the thrill of a traditional ride, but it also gives guests a self-guided, deeper dive immediately afterwards. This approach is being expanded to feature entire theme parks focused on a specific brand, so that every facet of the guest experience is designed to reinforce its message and vision. In the case of the latter, think LEGOLAND® theme parks. This exemplary brand has found another source that allows them to build (excuse the pun) awareness of their brand and amplify their story. Specifically designed for kids, their target audience, the theme park takes their IP from toy size to life size, allowing guest to interact with the brand through thrilling rides and attractions.
At Falcon’s, we get to the heart of a brand’s vision, mission, and values so we can extrapolate the essence of it and begin to make strategic decisions on how to craft an experiential offering around it. A lot of this methodology is based on understanding where you’ve been, where you are today, and where you want to go. How do you want people to view your brand? What do you want them to think about when they hear your name and see your logo? The result of our research and many discussions with you, is a focused strategy for a physical location, whether it be a pop-up, a special party, a traveling event, a corporate office, a destination LBE, a sponsored attraction, or an entire theme park dedicated to showcasing your brand.
We then assign a team to carry out creative guardian services. This is an important and often overlooked aspect when creating and realizing powerful, immersive, branded experiences. This service acts as guard rails to ensure that someone with brand awareness is helping guide the way during the creative process and the execution of it (construction through to opening). They know the ins and outs of the brand and the project’s goals because they have immersed themselves in your company’s story, beliefs, and core principles. They have had conversations with the company’s brand and marketing leaders. Because of all this planning and understanding, they recognize the best ways to build the bridge that connects the company’s image with actual human interactions.
No matter the scale or cost, branded experiences play a pivotal role in telling a story. By creating an authentic link between its core values and the emotional memories of consumers, companies can elevate their brand’s recognition with fans who engage in their story, thereby scoring loyalty points and potentially, new fans and consumers.
Stephen’s well balanced technical and creative skills, developed over years working in theatre, broadcast television, and themed entertainment, allow him to lead all stages of a project, from ideation through opening day.