Designing with the Fan Journey in Mind

What does it take to create a brand-centric customer experience? At the 2018 SEGD Branded Environmentsevent, innovators will lead sessions that touch on physical and digital design for sports, entertainment, retail and corporate venues—and challenge traditional expectations of how brand impacts environment.

Asher Johnson, Sports Practice Account Director for Dimensional Innovations, will kick off the event on March 27 with his session, “Boundless Touchpoints: Extending the Brand Experience for Sport + Entertainment Venues.” [See the complete agenda.]

Here, Asher shares his favorite projects, key considerations in building brand-centric customer experiences and what makes a brand experience “game-changing.”

How do you approach design?

At Dimensional Innovations, we take a holistic approach, because great work happens at the crossroads of creativity, strategy and technology. Our ultimate design goal is to build the best moments that connect with people and use those moments to guide audiences down pathways of engagement. Our holistic approach creates environments that surprise and delight in ways that lead audiences to come back for more.

What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on and why?

My career highlight was the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the heart of downtown Atlanta. At MBS, every brand touchpoint was designed with the fan journey in mind. Our goal was for the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium to become the ultimate destination, for all sports and entertainment fans around the world.

Dimensional Innovations was hired by the stadium management team to direct and implement all sponsorship activity within the stadium and leverage those sponsorships to create an incredible game-day and event experience. DI did this by creating the first-ever web-based experiential guide called the “Partner Portal,” a digital catalog for sponsorship partners to access and stay updated on their own destination-based sponsorship environments within the stadium. The MBS Partner Portal offers stadium-wide information to help manage the aesthetic and holistic look and feel, ensuring an integrated approach across all partnerships.

From early conceptual designs, to the management of distinct sponsorship zones, Dimensional Innovations worked with 19 big brands to bring their brand promise to light. The Partner Portal put deliberate guard rails on sponsorship activations taking the entire environment into consideration, from the variety of fan types, to interior esthetic and adaptable technology.

What are the top considerations when creating a brand-centric customer experience?

We investigate three inputs:

  1. Why does it matter to our fans? Emotional connections are rooted in motivations, habits, and feelings. They are people-centric, not brand-centric. They are about discovering ways that our initiatives, propositions and sports marketing brands can connect with our audience’s life. We must find truly insightful ways to connect audiences to what they are thinking and feeling.
  2. Where are we communicating with our fans? From the moment they arrive to when the experience concludes, the context is about understanding where people are and when they are open to communication, so we know where we can connect with them. We use research, communication tools and user-experience resources to identify the places and spaces in which our target audience will be most likely to engage with the experience.
  3. How are we driving the behavior of our fans? Catalysts are the visuals, communications, technology, and tools we create to actually persuade people. They are the tactics we use to accelerate the experience in intuitive, engaging and memorable ways.

What makes a project or brand experience “game changing”?

The projects that resonate for our audiences are the environments that invite people to share the experience. Leveraging game-changing technology, such as user generated photography and video, ultimately connects visitors and fans to their life in such meaningful ways that they are inspired to interact, start a conversation and save the brand experience in ways that feel most natural to them.

What do you like most about working on sports and entertainment venues?

I love the variety of audience types in sports and entertainment—recognizing changing environments, moods and energy levels that correspond with the multitude of event types. A good example exists in game-day timeline scenarios.

The average NFL experience lasts 5–8 hours when including the pre-game tailgating activities with multiple flow scenarios and concession surges throughout the game. MLS games experience averages around three hours with less breaks in play. The entertainment or concert/spectacular scenario can widely vary, but usually averages two hours per event with less pre- and post-activity. I love the challenge of digging deep into the context, catalysts and connections for each event type to help inform the final design.

Are there any new technologies you’re especially excited about?

Technology is only a tool, but what gets me amped up is how we use it to unify communities and create opportunities to educate, amaze and generate smiles.

The first challenge of any tech execution is to avoid becoming wallpaper. We really try to leverage technology that breaks free from convention and gets noticed—and we always ask why this technology is the best delivery.

Does the tech help navigate, educate or inspire? What’s the heart of the story? Does the technology provide a unique delivery or creatively present a compelling way to dramatize a proposition? Above all else, the tech needs to be memorable. Memorable experiences get people thinking and talking and coming back for more.

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Branded Environments event?

I’m looking for the same thing we try to build in our environments:

  • Something that is memorable
  • Something that gets noticed
  • Something that tells a story
  • Something that gets a reaction

Join Asher and the talented line-up of speakersat the 2018 SEGD Branded Environment event, March 27–28 in Las Vegas. This event will sell out. Register now!