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The 11 Stages of Project Development

The following guidelines have been amended from Project Development Guidelines for the Themed Entertainment Industry6, a guide developed by the Themed Entertainment Association, an organization made up of professionals in the experiential branding and LBE industry.

These steps are offered to provide a roadmap for marketers interested in developing brands outside the usual and customary presentations, who may not be familiar with the processes involved. Experiential branding can be a very powerful tool, but only if developed correctly, with all the complexities of a fully operational consumer destination carefully considered. While most marketing professionals may not wind up in the trenches of location development, they should be aware of the challenges these types of installations present. Thus, the following information is presented as an introductory overview.

The process of developing a project can be expressed in 11 distinct stages under the following four major headings:

  1. The Master Plan and Program (Stages I and II)

  2. The Design Process (Stages III, IV, V, and VI)

  3. The Implementation Process (Stages VII and VIII)

  4. The Pre-, Grand, and Post-Opening (Stages IX, X, and XI)

The first two stages culminate with the project's Master Plan. The nine stages that follow the Master Plan address the complete design and implementation processes that are required for a project's development.

In establishing descriptions for the 11 stages of project development, the Standards Development Committee discovered that the various definitions of a Project Master Plan have no common basis. To an architect, a Master Plan might be a site plan; to a show designer, a Master Plan might include storyboards for a show or attraction; and to an economist, a Master Plan might mean developing a demographic analysis. While all of these definitions are valid in describing various Master Plan components, a true Master Plan must completely address all of the issues required to develop the Owner's/Developer's Project Program. This therefore becomes our starting point for the Project Development Guidelines.

A. The Master Plan and Program

  1. Master Plan Organization and Project Program: At this stage, the project's goals and scope are formulated and documented while the project team is chosen and its tasks are delineated. The delivery of clear goals that define the scope, nature, size, financial parameters, schedule milestones, and target audience, as well as the creation of planning and development strategies, will establish the Project Program.

  2. Preliminary Concept Design: Preliminary Concept Designs are developed for major project components to address the attitude, scope, and nature of the project. The issues addressed include not only the conceptual design, but the economic and operational guidelines as well. The conceptual design developed at this stage is based on the Owner's/Developer's Project Program.

B. Design Process

  1. Final Concept Design: The Final Concept Design covers all project disciplines carried forward to a level of detail sufficient for understanding the project's scope to determine the requirements of all disciplines needed to design and develop the project. Verification of the Final Concept Design against all major components of the Project Program will complete the project's Master Plan.

  2. Schematic Design: This stage develops the design "scheme" to a level of detail that identifies the sizing and interfaces required to bridge between the various component elements and project disciplines.

  3. Design Development: This stage develops the design to a level of detail that accurately describes the project. Generally, this includes detailed strategies and specifications, as well as design documentation describing the show, architectural, and site elements that support the project's design intent.

  4. Production and Construction Documents: This stage develops all Production and Construction Documents, which the consultants, vendors, and contractors need to implement the project. It can include developing plans, specifications, drawings, scripts, storyboards, and other detailed information that will support and delineate the production and construction bid documents. Verification of the Production and Construction Documents against all major components of the Project Program will complete the project's Design Process.

C. Implementation Process

  1. Production and Construction: This stage deals with the bidding, negotiation, and subsequent production and construction of all components for the show.

  2. Show Installation: Show Installation covers the installation, termination, testing, and programming of all components and equipment directly related to the show system and technologies proposed for the Project Program. All show systems are tested during this stage to ensure they will meet the Project Program requirements as set forth in the Master Plan.

D. Pre-, Grand, and Post-Opening

  1. Pre-Opening: The Pre-Opening stage covers the training of operations/maintenance personnel, the establishment of operations and maintenance procedures, the loading of operations furniture, fixtures, and equipment, and the stocking of all inventory required for operation.

  2. Grand Opening: The Grand Opening is the culmination of the entire project's development. It is also the official opening and presentation of a fully operational and completely finished product to the general public.

  3. Rehabilitation/Expansion: The Rehabilitation/Expansion stage begins when an infusion of new ideas and/or updated processes, thematic content, or additional components are required to maintain a project's viability. When requirements include new facilities, a major rehabilitation of existing elements, or any other major additions or alterations, the process then becomes a new and separate project and must again address the 11 stage of project development.

Success Story

In general, there are several common elements among successful experiential branding projects. They include:

  • The project must demonstrate the knowledge of the brand from both the company's and the customer's perspective, otherwise the consumer's expectations may not match the end result.

  • The project must educate, enhance, and entertain, and be presented within an aesthetic that supports the brand image.

  • The project cannot stand alone; it must be supported within a traditional framework of advertising and promotion.

  • The project should be located in an area that can draw from tourist as well as local traffic. Co-opetition with other attractions can also be helpful.

  • The project must be able to be refreshed within the boundaries of a realistic budget to do so.

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