A 100-year anniversary is reason for celebration, and that's what Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs wanted to do. The task was to create an experience that not only establish a live marketing database with rich client purchase data and also give the brand a big media push ahead of the famous annnual 4th of July eating contest.

This is my story of designing and helping to shape the Nathan's Famous 'Ticket To Fun' experience - a web app that created daily engagement, and tracked product purchase through the peak summer grilling season.

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Timeframe: July 2015 - December 2017
Project type: Responsive web

Synopsis: Approaching their 100-year anniversary the iconic hotdog brand was looking to develop a purchase-based program that would also be worthy of attracting some media buzz.

The challenge: To build a program that would tangibly boost sales, increase media attention, highlight the history of Nathan's Famous, elevate the brand, and build a platform for collecting live user analytics for the first time.

My Roles

Creative lead & Experience strategy.

My team: Account Manager, Project Manager, Software Engineers, Studio Director, Animator, Interface Developers, Copywriter.


Promotions were our bread and butter, so we were fully aware of gamification approaches, but wrapping them seamlessly into a scalable, living environment was cause for us to really slow down our regular pace to make sure we were taking stock regularly.

Here's the process we implemented:

  1. Program goal setting and roadmap outline
  2. Initial brainstorming & collection of assets
  3. Prototyping
  4. High fidelity creative & device optimization
  5. Development, QA & future state roadmapping

Measure of Success

  • Launch MVP within 4 months
  • Ability to enter on-pack codes for 'tickets'
  • 100,000 registered users within 90 days
  • Develop an evergreen marketplace of prizes to claim
  • Build in a tool to create promotional overlays for product marketing


  • Our design and development office was in Detroit, MI, yet all of our reference material was in Brooklyn, NY.
  • We needed to digitally design an authentic replication of historic rides, buildings, games & attractions - many of which we no longer standing or operating.


Planning & userflow baselines: Few things were able to capture the authentic and historic nature of the Nathan's Famous brand than Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY. The idea soon became a frenzy of excitement as we explored the possibilities of setting up a virtual world to explore. We knew we needed a few key aspects of the program in order for it to work, but we also wanted to have a little fun at the same time.

  • A way for users to register and connect to marketing messages
  • A way for users to submit on-pack codes in order to track proof of purchase without using receipt uploads.
  • Develop a form of point currency that tied all of the activities together
  • Create an evergreen prize marketplace for users to spend their earned points
  • A method for users to try their hand at wining a daily instant prize
  • Places to engage with the brand
  • Attractions and games that had a high replayability

Brainstorming & concepting: Having decided on the approach, we needed to build a fully interactive, animated virtual world that would work on all devices from desktop to mobile. After leading a crew to Brooklyn to collect source photos, texture galleries & walk through the kitchens of the restaurant, we set to refining which pieces we could keep and which needed to be cut. Starting with the brand-defining hot dog eating contest and moving quickly to the most iconic rides like the Wonder Wheel and Cyclone, all the way down to Holywood-famous Zoltar the fortune teller. We even worked out a way to bring rides back to life that hadn't been in operation for decades like the parachute drop utilizing historic footage and drones.

Design: After some 'town planning' to rearrange our key structures & buildings to fit into a digital mile, we broke into teams to develop our long list of experiences. While the Studio director and I oversaw the entire project, I was personally responsible for:

  • Overall UI in compliance with the Nathan's brand guidelines
  • Rides with video recorded experiences
  • Zoltar the fortune teller
  • Nathan's Famous trivia
  • Prize Gift Shop
  • Information Booth
  • Instant win game direction
  • Digital communications


The program's success metrics weren't made public, but it was so successful that it was extended by another year. The parent client Smithfield Foods also asked us to create a virtual town of Smithfield, VA. to support their premium line of pork-related products.

We were able to achieve a number of sigificant milestones for the client;

  • Establish a comprehensive CRM for targeted digital and direct-mail marketing
  • Track household product usage & frequency
  • Increased 4th of July event viewers by over 150k

Exceeded previous year by 150k viewers
Note: Program launched 2016

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