Makers At Heart | Creative Director, Brand Partnerships Nick Braccia on crafting unforgettable brand experiences

Community March 5, 2021

We are Makers At Heart. We create the extraordinary.

As the creative engine room of the world’s biggest brands we are driven by one purpose: to solve our client’s toughest briefs beautifully. Our Makers believe in the power of cooperation and partnership to deliver ambitious ideas to that break new ground and deliver awe-inspiring creative work.

Everything we do as a team makes great ideas come to life. We are thinkers, designers, artists, directors, producers, developers, colourists, coders, technicians, editors, animators, writers, doers and makers.

In our Makers At Heart series, we introduce the people behind the projects to hear more about their inspirations, motivations and creative insights. We spoke to Creative Director, Brand Partnerships Nick Braccia about crafting unforgettable brand experiences.


Tell us about a project that defines your craft and why?

It’s very difficult to choose! Our projects are like our children, amirite? (No offense to my actual child.) If I had to choose one, it’d probably be Purge City at SDCC for USA Network in 2018. Why? Because it presented the biggest canvas and broadest toolset for storytelling imaginable. Daunting, but also a gift. As part of The Mill’s Campfire team, I acted as the lead writer and narrative director for the project. The brief itself was pretty simple: win the San Diego ComicCon earned media sweepstakes while making The Purge franchise more accessible than is suggested by the intense and graphically violent film series. My friend, the brilliant creative director, Steve Coulson, pitched the concept: a real-life, fully staffed Party City-style store designed to immerse people in any and all holiday culture around The Purge. It became my job to help bring this profane holiday to life: digitally, physically and through live performance.

This brings us to the crux of why I think this project defines my craft. I was challenged to help create a holiday and tell the story of the culture around it through narrative experience. Would there be traditional foods? Dozens of greeting cards? Board games? Yes, yes and yes. Every aspect of Purge City, from the moment people lined up and received a shopping flyer to the in-store live demos for ‘Purge Away Stain Remover’ and the ’21st Amendment Cake Cutter’ brought a part of the story—the world—to life for people.

I pride myself on looking at that aforementioned canvas and knowing how to balance and convey narrative. We don’t want to overwhelm people with too much exposition or stimuli. We choose how, when and where we want them to make discoveries and what’s the right aspect of the story uncover to make at the right moment. One of the most important aspects of narrative and experience design is leaving the right amount of “white space.” You want to give your audience just enough information so that they can make the ”eureka” connections for themselves. That provides the kind of endorphin rush that results in grabbing a friend, taking a picture and sharing whatever just happened to you with the people that you love.

The project posed so many challenges: it was both immersive theatre AND a fully operational store with a team of twenty “employees” who needed to stay in character and on-brand at all times. It had thousands of pieces coordinated by dozens of people. And yet when I think about my favorite part of it, the part I’m most proud of, it’s comically simple: among fifty original Purge City greeting cards, one that I wrote featured a face-palming woman. The outside reads: “People Say the Safest Way to Purge is with Family…” Inside, it continues, “Obviously they Haven’t Met MY Family!” A simple, cheesy simulation of actual greeting card copy. People loved it because, despite being in a completely fictional environment, the sentiment was so relatable, so TRUE. It’s the one piece of work I keep on my desk at all times. Later, we released the Purge Shopping Network on USA Network, SYFY and YouTube, which extended much of what we brought to life in the store. So, Purge City: a narrative craftsperson’s dream.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Only the smell of extremely potent coffee. Seriously, though, it’s very simple. The opportunity to tell great stories alongside people I like personally and admire professionally. I am a strategic marketer, a narrative designer and a wordsmith. These represent three specific skills I’ve worked to refine over my entire career; but there are dozens—if not hundreds—of other skills that are represented by artists, craftspeople, storytellers and technologists within The Mill. People who are able to do things I can only dream about; I am especially excited by The Mill’s incredible work in virtual production, especially Mill Mascot.

So what gets me out of bed? Working together to tell great stories and create world-class experiences that deliver results for the people who pay for them. What makes me LEAP out of bed? Every client who comes back for a second engagement. Those people who feel validated by choosing you the first time and so continue to give you their trust and put their reputations (and careers) in your hands. This is a responsibility I take very seriously.

Check out more Makers At Heart features here and get in touch regarding any upcoming projects via our contact page.