Flip the Switch

132: Influencing the Guest Experience from the Frontlines w/ Vanessa Ward

In this episode, David Millay sits down with Vanessa Ward, Vice President of Event Service for the Phoenix Suns. Before joining the Suns, Vanessa spent time at Disney, launching the Guest Experience Center, and the Chicago Cubs, overseeing the Guest and Associate Experience.  Understanding that the employee experience directly impacts the guest experience, Vanessa shares tactics on communicating significant changes from event to event, making events unique for the staff and how to develop niche service programs.


3:17    Takeaways and Key Learnings from Disney

6:09    The Service Recovery Toolkit

10:42  Building a New Service Recovery Toolkit 

13:25  Disney’s Guest Experience Center and Proactively Resolving Issues

20:17  Customer Satisfaction Surveys 

25:50  Newsletters and Themes to Drive the Seasonal Employee Experience

39:17  “Know Before You Go” Communications

43:12   Building a Niche Service Operation

49:15   Training Throughout the Season

52:21   Taking Risks


Other podcasts referenced in this episode: 

Episode 35: Personalizing the Guest Experience w/ Brian Betts (Disney’s Guest Experience Center) 

Connect with Vanessa on LinkedIn or email

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128: Discovering the STORY Behind Superfandom w/ Brittany Hodak

Previously on Flip the Switch, Brittany Hodak shared her ‘SUPER’ framework that brands can leverage to increase loyalty and fandom. With her new book, Creating Superfans coming out today (January 10), David Millay welcomes Brittany back to the show to discuss new frameworks and models that small businesses and global brands everywhere can implement to convert customers and employees into superfans.


2:29     Creating Superfans Podcast

6:53     SUPER Framework Overview

9:57     Ladder to Superfandom (Customer Apathy)

19:57   STORY framework

25:04   Getting to Know Your Customer’s Story

28:13   Digging into Customer Struggles

30:42   Pitching the Transformation

33:41   Simplifying Journey Maps

41:05   Measuring the Customer Experience (CSAT and EgR)

45:18   Prioritizing the Employee Experience

48:20   The Platinum Rule


For more from Brittany on Creating Superfans, check out:


Purchase Creating Superfans: How To Turn Your Customers Into Lifelong Advocates

Listen to the Creating Superfans Podcast

Subscribe to the Creating Superfans newsletter

Brittany’s Twitter | LinkedIn


Listen to Brittany’s previous appearance:

Episode 66: Cultivating SUPER Fans

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125: Bringing Greater Hospitality to the Ballpark w/ Eric Weisberg

The baseball business is a relationship business and has the same core values as any other hospitality industry.  It’s a practice that Eric Weisberg preaches as the Vice President of Fan Experience.  In this episode, Eric discusses the influences roles with Disney and the Kansas City Zoo has on his career in baseball, his “Fan Host for a Day” program and how to show up for a job in the sports industry.  

3:43     Eric’s Career Journey to Tampa

11:09   Hiring for Skill Sets over Industry Experience

13:44   Fan Host for a Day

21:02   From Negative Experience to Brand Ambassador

26:45   Reviewing the Savannah Bananas

32:12   The Tech Driving the Future MLB Fan Experience

34:27   The Effect of Promotions and Theme Days

43:07   Influencing the Fan Experience Vision Across Departments

45:45   The Best Fan Experience: Naturalization Ceremony

48:46   Breaking Into the Industry

55:46   Parting Advice: Place Emphasis on the Staff


Connect with Eric via email
Join Sports Learning Online –  a cross-functional community of sports business professionals coming together to share best practices and foster professional development.

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122: Inspiring Impactful Change w/ Guido D’Elia

To orchestrate a compelling game day experience for all fans requires thinking more like a play caller, an offensive coordinator, rather than simply directing a run of show.  In this episode, David Millay and Katie Rudy sit down with Guido D’Elia, a consultant in strategic communications and college athletics game day experience.  As Penn State’s Director of Football Branding and Communications, Guido was the mastermind behind the “Penn State Whiteout”, an experiment that has resulted in one of the greatest game day experiences in college football. Through insights from the Whiteout, we unpack how to deeper engage your fans and strategies for successful change management.


Show Notes

3:47      “Offensive Coordinator” Show Calling

8:33      The Need for the Whiteout

11:30    Selling before Social Media

13:48    Communicating the Vision & Benefits in Change Management 

18:26    Expanding the Whiteout Stadium-wide

20:45    Holding Back on Change

23:11    Applying the ‘Playbook’

29:11    Combating Falling Attendance Numbers

32:56    The Pain Points in the Fan Experience

37:32    The Impact of Parking

40:19    Making the Perimeter Something That Happens

45:09    Perfecting the Current Experience

47:55    The Ramp Up to Kickoff 


For more information on topics covered in this episode:

ESPN College Game Day feature: The Origin of Penn State’s Whiteout

America’s favorite family outings are increasingly out of reach


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120: The Simple Science Behind Successful Marketing Strategies w/ Phill Agnew

Today’s guest is Phill Agnew, a senior product marketing manager at Buffer.  After struggling as a marketer in his early career, Phill discovered behavioral science and started applying psychology principles to improve his work. From distinctiveness, social proof, primacy effect and framing, Phill developed the Science of Marketing course and The Nudge Marketing Podcast to help others understand how to boost their marketing strategy.

This episode explores key strategies to apply in each of the sales funnel phases – awareness, consideration, acquisition and retention. 

2:42    Breaking Down the Nudge Marketing Podcast

5:08    The Framework to the Science of Marketing Course 

6:58    Awareness and Countering the Sea of Sameness 

13:23  Consideration and Social Proof

16:37  The Scarcity Impact

23:19  Reciprocation in Acquisition

31:59  Choice Overload and Simplifying Decision-Making

39:19  The Pratfall Effect and Highlighting Your Flaws

47:30  The Replication Crisis

49:57  Phill’s Parting Advice on Consumer Psychology


For more on topics covered in this episode:

Follow Phill on Twitter | LinkedIn

Subscribe to the Nudge Podcast

Subscribe to Phill’s Newsletter

Check out The Science of Marketing course


Dr. Robert Chaldini – Influence at Work

Pret a Manger’s “Random Acts of Kindness” 

Sweden’s Speed Camera Lottery


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118: The Parallels Between Rabid Fandoms and Religions w/ Jodi Eichler-Levine

Taking a non-traditional exploration of fandom, today’s episode features Jodi Eichler-Levine, who studies the parallels between classic religions and fan cultures.  After learning of Jodi’s research from her a Twitter-trending analysis on “Disney adults” or “Disney-files”, David and Jodi take a deeper dive into the principles that Disney has utilized to create evangelists of their brand and the strategies and tactics brands can adapt to their organization to inspire their own fanatics.  


Show Notes

3:52    The Foundation of Jodi’s Research

6:00   The 3 Parallels

7:28    Story

12:11  Core Memories with Disney

14:41  Transitioning Into the Story Through Theme Parks

16:00  Ritual

19:43  Creating an Environment for Individual Rituals

22:41  The Emotions of Being a Fan

25:56  Merchandise and Souvenirs as an Amulet

30:20  Community and Collective Effervescence

33:07  Creating a Environment for Community 

34:33  The Magic in runDisney Races

46:52  The Diversity of Disney Fans

49:39  Journeying to Marceline, Missouri, Walt Disney’s hometown 


For more information on the topics covered in this episode: 

Follow Jodi on Twitter and check out her website

Once Upon a Time – the Twitter thread that started it all 

“The Gospel According to Disney” by Mark Pinsky

Disney Pin trading

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117: What Drives Customers to Buy w/ Katelyn Bourgoin

Before the “driveway to driveway” customer journey begins, there’s the whole buying process.  What prompted the customer to consider your brand, product or service? What motivated them to complete the purchase?  

This week, we’re jumping into the psychology behind why people buy with Katelyn Bourgoin, CEO of Customer Camp.  Katelyn and David hit on the journey before the journey, the four key trigger events that lead to purchases and solutions companies have created by truly listening to their customers.


Show Notes

0:00    Introduction

2:30    The Golden Nugget – Review Mining

5:54    Customer Camp Background

8:55    Marketing Takeaways from an Old School Alarm

14:21  Building Trust with New Customers

17:54  Creating “Instagrammable” moments

20:33  The Trigger Events

28:47  Understanding Who Customers Are and What They Want

35:34  Targeting Customers on Jobs to be Done

45:13  The Biggest Misunderstanding – We Aren’t Rational


For more information on topics covered in this podcast:


Follow Katelyn on Twitter and subscribe to her newsletter

Clay Christensen | The Theory of Jobs to be Done

Other Flip the Switch podcasts referenced – 

Ep. 115: How the Savannah Bananas Create the ‘Greatest Show Possible’ w/ Jesse Cole

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Lessons from Leaders: How Jesse Cole and the Savannah Bananas Create the ‘Greatest Show Possible’

If you don’t know by now, we’re big fans of the Savannah Bananas.  

Inspired by Walt Disney and P.T. Barnum, Jesse Cole had a vision and has turned an independent collegiate summer baseball team into a global phenomenon. 

That vision is projected everywhere, from the ownership group (Fans First Entertainment) to the mission (“Fans First, Entertain Always”). The dancing players, Banana Nanas senior dance team and experiments like Dolce & Banana underwear have captured the attention of fans around the world, with  500K+ followers on Instagram and 2.7 million followers on TikTok.

This week, we welcome Jesse back to the podcast to discuss his newest book, Fans First: Change The Game, Break the Rules & Create an Unforgettable Experience. Jesse has 5 Es to building a Fans First organization, which he illustrates through dozens of stories about fans and from fans.

What Jesse understands above all else is, “The first fan is yourself.  You can’t create fans until you are a fan of what you do.”

Here’s how Jesse and his front office have become fans of the Savannah Bananas:

Eliminate Friction

What is it: From the start, Jesse strived to eliminate the macro friction of “baseball is boring.”  Fans are entertained from the second penguins guide them to park in the parking lot, through the player pre-game parade, promotions every half inning and a dance party with the players when they leave.  On a micro level, the Bananas attack the little things – ticket fees, convenience fees, shipping fees, buying concessions, standing in line.  Even the necessary pains, like paying invoices, they make it fun.  

How to approach it: Start with the things that drive you crazy as a fan – parking prices? Ticket fees? Concessions prices?  Make a list and just start tackling it one-by-one.

Entertain Always

What is it: In sports, we talk about the “driveway to driveway” experience, but the Savannah Bananas look at the 7 stages.  The first stage is the first impression fans have – navigating your website, what’s on your social media, the messaging in your confirmation emails.  The team sends videos to celebrate ticket sales and sends you a driving playlist to psyche you up for the game.  The last stage is the last impression – which is not pulling out of the parking lot.  It’s how you communicate with them after the game. Hint: It’s not an email with a postgame survey.  

How to approach it: Think about the different stages of your fan experience.  Take it one stage at a time.  Start with one item that you could “plus up” that will have an impact on the fan experience.  

Experiment Constantly

What is it: The Savannah Bananas are not afraid to try anything. They put their rivals’ logos on toilet paper in their restrooms.  They sell Dolce & Banana underwear.  Every game has 5 – 10 experiments.  With every experiment, they measure how the fans are responding to it, what are they doing, what’s working, what’s not and they learn faster.  What’s critical is how they learn.  They don’t learn by surveys, they learn by observation.  2 years ago, they took a picture of the grandstand every 30 minutes to track fans’ behavior, which led to the 2-hour Banana Ball game.  Every single night, a Savannah Bananas staff member goes undercover.  They park with the fans, walk in with them, eat with them, stand in line with them and report on their experience that night.

How to approach it: What’s the worst parking location, the worst seat, the worst food section in your venues? Go experience that for yourself. Become an undercover fan and figure out the friction points, the frustration points and the Fans First moments. Tackle the friction points one-by-one. Fix one concessions stand at a time, improve one gate flow at a time.  Take it step-by-step.

Engage Deeply

What is it: With such an emphasis on personalized experiences, it’s easy to become overwhelmed or stuck on how to deliver a unique, heartfelt experience for everyone.  Start by doing the unscalable – call a fan and thank them for a purchase, send a fan who is battling an illness a motivational video. From there, try and find ways to make it scalable.  One of Jesse’s other favorite references is from Darren Ross who runs the Magic Castle Hotel – “Listen carefully, respond creatively.”

How to approach it: The Bananas believe in the mindset of Andy Stanley, “Do for one, what you wish you could do for many.” Make one phone call / email / text to a fan per day to thank them for a purchase.  If fans comment on social media that they are coming to the game for a special occasion – first visit, birthday, anniversary – find a way to make that memorable for them. 

Empower Action

What is it: The Savannah Bananas staff are all empowered to create Fans First moments.  If you follow Jesse on LinkedIn, he continuously shares these stories, from his nightly walks on plussing the experience with his Director of Entertainment to one of his ticket staff noticing drain covers could use a Bananas face lift. If you are clear with the vision, then trust your staff to execute it.  If they go overboard with it, that’s great. It’s better to push them and rein it back from there.

How to approach it: We emphasize this all the time, lead with purpose over task.  Define your vision and how your staff can contribute to the execution of it.  Allow them to create experiences for your fans that align with your vision.  

Jesse often cites one of Walt Disney’s quotes, “Money doesn’t excite me. Ideas excite me.”  

For even more ideas than we could possibly share in one email, check out the full conversation and purchase Fans First for your summer beach read, book club or team idea generation session.

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115: How the Savannah Bananas Create the ‘Greatest Show Possible’ w/ Jesse Cole

Our only three-peat on the show, we welcome back Jesse Cole, owner of the Savannah Bananas.  In previous episodes, David and Jesse have jammed and brainstormed, but in this show, we unpack the Bananas’ 5-E-Framework that has propelled their Fans First model into a global phenomenon.  What the Bananas lack in detailed processes and metrics, they make up for in intentionality, in-depth knowledge of their product and fans and the impression they leave through every step of the in-person and virtual experience.  


Show Notes

4:04    Fans First: The Savannah Bananas Story

5:08    Capturing the World’s Attention

10:47  Balancing Attention and Intention

12:49  The 5 E Framework 

13:16  Eliminate Friction – What Hurts the Most

20:01  Make the Small Bets

21:52  Entertain Always – How You View Things is How You Do Things

23:43  The Last Impression

29:34  Experiment Constantly

33:11  Collecting Data and Feedback

35:48  Undercover Fans

38:11  Engage Deeply

45:19  Empowering Action

49:23  “The First Fan is Yourself”


Want more from Jesse Cole and the Savannah Bananas?

Fans First: Change The Game, Break the Rules & Create an Unforgettable Experience
Find Your Yellow Tux: How to Be Successful By Standing Out

Connect with Jesse: Twitter | LinkedIn

FindYourYellowTux.com |  Business Done Differently Podcast

Follow the Savannah Bananas: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok | YouTube

Check out Jesse’s other appearances on Flip the Switch:

Episode 14: Fans First

Episode 44: A Culture of Experimentation and Innovation

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113: The Building Blocks of LEGO’s Content & Fandom Strategy w/ James Gregson

Similar to the passion fans have for Disney, young kids and adults alike have deep emotional connections with LEGO.  In this week’s episode, James Gregson, creative director for LEGO Group’s internal creative agency, breaks down the content strategies that elicits that fandom and helps “inspire the builders of tomorrow.”    

The conversation covers the product partnerships and user-generated content that LEGO utilizes to strengthen relationships and bring new fans into the ecosystem and the creative process James’ team employs to build campaigns.


Show Notes

2:34    From Social Strategy to Full Content Strategy

5:37    Creating Impactful Content

8:20    Designing Content for Niche Audiences

10:07  Using Content to Attract New Fans

16:02  Defining Success in Campaigns

20:05  Campaigns with Unexpected Results

24:30  Encouraging Play within Adults

28:07  Crowdsourcing New Product Ideas

33:17  Creator and Influencer Partnerships

37:50  LEGO’s Brainstorming Process

45:18  Parting Advice


For more on topics covered in this episode:

View LEGO Content on Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | LEGO Ideas

LEGO Fans’ Product Ideas 

LEGO Collaborations: Target | Adidas All-Star

Carolina Panthers’ 2022 Schedule Release

Episode 105: Storytelling and Personifying a Brand Voice w/ Amie Kiehn 

Connect with James on Twitter and LinkedIn

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