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Meet Design & Manufacturing (DSNMFG)


Leah Hacker
Head of Research - Accpl

Sitting down with Brian Simpson of Design & Manufacturing {DSNMFG}, the newest member of our family of agencies. We chat about what started it all and the vision for consumer experiences and DSNMFG in the future. Turns out, Brian and I hail from the same small town in Florida and I’m pretty sure I know his mom. He’s easy to chat with and his passion for the customer experience is contagious. He’s acutely aware of how the experience is tied to the overall business goals.

 

Let’s start with introductions. Tell our readers a little bit about who you are?

I’m from a somewhat small town in the middle of Florida and moved to Austin 10 years ago.  I’ve had an eye for design since I was a little kid and ultimately pursued a degree in 3-D computer animation. I worked in the commercial animation space for about 5 years and I began to realize a passion for building brands both creatively and strategically.

That passion then started to take me on a path through branding design and interactive media such as web and mobile user experience building. The formation of Design and Manufacturing (DSNMFG) was really a culmination of everything I have learned so far about the power of branding and marketing. The marketplace today requires a true experience with brands to effectively convert them into advocates and loyalists.

DSNMFG is an experience-design-build agency. What does that mean?

Consumers are inundated with digital technology in every facet of their lives and obviously, brands are constantly pushing exposure through those digital channels, but what we believe is that nothing is ever truly real unless it is experienced.  We exist to create memories and attach them to brands.  That may come in the form of some over the top, PR stunt that just gets people posting through social media about this “should have been there” moment or simply provide the best possible environment for showcasing a new product.

Early on we coined the tagline, “Pixels and Powertools” because it essentially captures how we marry the two worlds. We use digital technology to further enhance an already engaging fabricated space through mediums such as interactive touch displays, projection mapping, or sensor based triggers that live and breathe with anyone who might be in attendance. We work with our clients to understand the overarching business goals from the very beginning and lead them down a process of iterative design from sketches to computer aided design models before sending out back to our fabrication shop to be built and assembled.  Once we have the last coat of paint dried, we handle all logistics from getting it to our shop, out to an event, installation, removal, and back to our shop until we do it all over again for the next event on the schedule.

How does DSNMFG go above and beyond the expectations of an experiential marketing agency?  

We are truly holistic from ideation to execution to logistics. Often times we work with agencies of record that are already attached to brands that have these huge ideas with no validation on whether or not what they have dreamed up can be built within budget or on time. Our true value is best realized when we are at the table from the very first meeting as a partner pushing and pulling on an idea until it can be delivered on time and within budget. Your average custom fabrication shop won’t do that. In those shops, you put in the order, they deliver the product. They won’t spend time making sure the order is aligned with your business goals or your success metrics or even your brand story.

We are often mistaken as a custom fabrication shop, but custom fabrication is only a small part of what we deliver although from the outside, due to our output, we sometimes get thrown in that bucket. If you come to us to have something built then more often than not you will realize very early on into an engagement that you should have come to us way earlier in the process.

What is the vision for DSNMFG?  

Our goal is to be the premier creator of branded experiences in the world. In the next 5-years, we plan to have fabrication outposts in 3-4 major US based cities in order to help with the costs of logistics for regional shows and exhibits.  Two of our largest clients are in London so we intend to have a more strategic presence there very soon.

DSNMFG has recently joined the family of agencies, whose common belief is It’s Worth Doing Right. How does joining this team improve the DSNMFG offerings?

It accelerated where we were ultimately going. We built a strong brand and have earned our place at the table through our quality fabrication capabilities. Our goal has always been to provide supporting digital integration services to fully complete the “pixels and power tools” vision. By joining the family of agencies we truly are an end to end solution in holistic brand experience development  — the ability to expand, the ability to validate, the ability to realize the vision all became quicker with the presence of our sister teams. We have the technical skills, data science, and design skills all in our back pocket.  

DSNMFG has had a number of installations over the years. Tell me about the most challenging installation you’ve faced.

I’d go all the way back to when we were 6 months old. We were doing an installation for Yahoo for SXSW 2015. We were working with an agency out of London. Everything was coming in, measured in metrics. We were having to find materials that were only available in Europe. The sheer number of bodies required to build 40 pieces of custom furniture in 2 months. We had to scale quickly. We were managing client expectations from London, which had its challenges. We were still young and inexperienced as a company, still trying to get our feet under us. Fortunately, we did not run into major hiccups, it turned out great — but it was a crazy 2 months.

But usually, the things that make our projects difficult is not the ask or the work. It’s the huge vision and the compressed timeframe. We are always juggling material lead-times and a short delivery date.

What makes for a really good installation? Is there a secret to pulling off an amazing stunt?

Today’s consumer, whether it be festival goers or attending live events, are educated and keenly aware of what’s gimmicky and what is really cool. It’s our job to help brands identify what is worth their investment in brand expression and what is not. We’ve learned over the years, it’s not how much money you spend, it’s how thoughtful the idea is.

Our secret sauce is our ability to connect with the brand. To truly understand the goals and metrics for success are for the brand, and to have the boldness to respectfully push on those goals, to get the end result to be something worth experiencing. When we have the ability to include our input into the output that’s where the magic happens.

Why do companies typically seek out experience design agencies? What problem are they trying to solve for?

The metric for success may vary, but the majority of our clients come to us to solve for capturing consumer attention first with the hope of converting them into buyers, advocates, or loyalists. Each experience comes with a list of constraints that creates additional challenges, whether it’s a predefined space, restricted timelines, budgets, or physical realities that they are considering. With each challenge they are looking to solve, we can meet them where they are and push the vision through the finish line without compromising on “wow” factor.

From your perspective, why should brands consider experiential marketing with today’s consumers?

Because, again, nothing ever becomes real until it is experienced. We live in a hyper connected, social media driven, competition for your attention. “FOMO” is a very real thing. Today’s consumers look to capture experiences, moments in time, that they can brag about to all their peers all at once as “I was there…where were you?”. When brands tag themselves to those experiences you get a very powerful association with all the right things – fun, excitement, happiness, friendship, quality of life even if just for a moment. With traditional advertising, you are just throwing information at your consumers, hoping they consume it. With experiential marketing build, you are inviting your consumer to touch, feel, listen and engage with your brand. It makes a brand real.