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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, July 25, 2014

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Everyone has a different perspective on Summerfest. Johnson Controls combined their employee's feelings on the Big Gig in choosing their new stage name.
Everyone has a different perspective on Summerfest. Johnson Controls combined their employee's feelings on the Big Gig in choosing their new stage name. (Photo: Andy Tarnoff)

The naming of a Summerfest stage

What's in a Summerfest stage name?

In March, it was announced that Johnson Controls and Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. had entered into a three-year sponsorship agreement beginning with Summerfest 2013. The sponsorship entitled Johnson Controls to naming and promotional rights to a major stage located near the Summerfest mid-gate.

Instead of looking to their marketing or PR department to decide what to christen the newest member of the Summerfest grounds stage family, Johnson Controls looked to their own employees.

"When we committed to the sponsorship, one of the things that we try and do is look for ways and opportunities to engage members of our team, especially when there’s a creative element," said Chuck Harvey, Vice President of Diversity and Public Affairs for Johnson Controls.

"So in this case, as we sort of debated how we might want to go about naming this stage, a suggestion was made by one of my colleagues that maybe we ought to have employees from a focus group standpoint come together, look at the existing information and let’s see what they come up with versus us just assigning a name to it."

Two focus groups, each made up of 20-25 handpicked Johnson Control Employees, spent an afternoon going over potential names and discussing what Summerfest meant in their own lives, as well as kicking around the message they wanted their company to send with this new stage’s name.

When the sponsorship was announced in March, Johnson Controls stated that the musical lineup would "appeal to a wide fan base and feature a mix of acts spanning genres including R&B, blues, world beat and soul," so diversity of opinion was an important part of the naming process.

Focus group participant and manager in Johnson Controls Power Solutions CJ Bacelis-Bush said that the groups began by introducing themselves and identifying their favorite genre of music, as well as what acts they usually took in at Summerfest.

"One thing I did notice was just how diverse the audience (of the focus group) was," Bacelis-Bush said. "That was especially helpful because you have different viewpoints from different areas within the company. You have different perspectives, certainly different age groups, different folks that have unique experiences going to Summerfest, so I think that this really was an enriching experience in general in terms of participation."

"People were asked to talk about their own experiences and examples in terms of visiting Summerfest and what comes to mind. (We heard) words like ‘diversity’ and ‘broad range of music’ and ‘different experiences’ and ‘something's there for everyone,’ so you have sort of these various adjectives coming together to describe what, in effect, was a very broad viewpoint and opinions about the festival itself," said Harvey.

"It was a discussion process, a question and answer period, a very collaborative sort of discussion that actually took place. And then they actually voted on which name they liked the most."

It came down to two choices: the Johnson Controls Sustainability Sound Stage and the Johnson Controls World Sound Stage.

Rejected names include the Johnson Controls Eco-tainment Stage, The Green Stage, The Vision Sound Stage and The World Vision Pavilion.

"A lot of what we were trying to accomplish was really indicative of the Johnson Controls mission," said Bacelis-Bush. "That was a theme that kept coming back – how do we best showcase and display Johnson Controls within something so visible as Summerfest is to Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin?"

The winning name, officially announced today, was chosen as The Johnson Controls World Sound Stage, and the headlining acts were announced this morning.

"We really wanted something that’s broad, that really does smack of inclusion across the whole community," said Harvey.

The Johnson Controls World Sound Stage is just the latest in the company’s involvement with Summerfest; since 2007, they have presented the Johnson Controls Stomp Out Hunger Day with FOX 6, featuring an admission promotion with the donation of three non-perishable food items. Since the beginning of the program, 443,225 pounds of food have been elected for Hunger Task Force. The promotion returns on opening day, Wednesday, June 26 this year.

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