Brushing Up On Our Guitar Skills

Early in 2016, we were honored to be invited into a dialogue with Fender to discuss promotion of their new headphone product line. While speaking with sales associates during our interviews, we quickly discovered what we viewed as a significant training opportunity that could benefit both employees and retailers.

We passed around some ideas as we reviewed the existing training program called Fender Academy, which did a nice job of providing information on brand history, products and culture. Our vision was to elevate their current effort and introduce something that would be more inspiring, while expressing the brand and the passion behind its products much more dynamically. What we proposed was a new and incentivized education platform that would engage, educate, reward, and provide far-reaching utility for Fender sales associates and retailers.

Uncovering 70 Years of Rich History

For 70 years, Fender has maintained its position atop the music industry in countless ways, including absolute dedication to quality craftsmanship. For us, our project journey began with gaining a thorough understanding of the brand and its culture.

Through an immersive, in-depth session with Fender, involving workshops with stakeholders, one-one-one interviews with key employees and even some hands-on experiences with the legendary Stratocaster, we were able to get a feel for the Fender culture, heritage and products. We also visited independent music shops and franchisees like Guitar Center and Sam Ash, speaking with potential buyers to understand their interests and needs.

What did we learn? With potential buyers ranging from high school band members to touring musicians, our educational approach had to appeal to a wide range of interests, abilities and knowledge. And for sales associates with no direct ties to Fender, we had to find powerful ways to motivate them to use the new platform to increase their sales knowledge.

A few high level notes about our audience

  • Some modularity was required to address their varying levels of expertise.
  • Since community and relationships are important to them, we focused on providing more access to Fender.
  • Rich exclusive media motivated our audience to engage.
  • Digital utilities like reference tools and product catalogues could be useful on the sales floor.
  • Discount / Reward incentives motivated sales associates to actively participate.
  • To accommodate different levels of interest, content needs and learning time, we kept content bite-sized. 
  • Desired a mobile friendly experience along with a rich desktop experience.
  • Valued the idea of becoming 'Fender Certified' as it's useful for the sales floor.


Reconsidering the Traditional Platform

After closely aligning with the internal team at Fender and bringing our insights together on the vision of the platform, we started to map out the overarching experience. To better serve Fender’s sales associates, we knew we needed to build off of their existing program by incorporating their previous ‘chapter series’ while creating an online education system that makes sales training feel less like work and more like play.

By creating a series of discovery decks highlighting our findings, we presented the new version of Fender Academy as a digital platform designed to educate, reward, and provide utility for our core users. Importantly, by bringing the existing program online, the platform can grow and scale each year atop these four strategic pillars.


A modular system allows Fender to upload a variety of content in different ways, simultaneously making education fun and engaging while simplifying content management.


We planned for rich media and longevity with additional content, rewards, and sales associates.


We utilized proven tools and data to help keep employees up-to-date on the latest products, news and events.


The site is built to allow Fender to control regional content and languages.


The entire site allows easy access across mobile, tablet and desktop devices, through one seamless experience.

Introducing a New Platform Centered Around Sales Education and Rock-and-Roll Heritage

We took inspiration from several online schools, educational websites, and platforms, to try and understand how they are educating users. While we were able to identify some solid takeaways, we knew we could rethink the typical educational structure. We brought on Harvard consultants to help create the quizzes and guide us around building a curriculum while making the experience challenging and engaging. Together, we were able to rethink online education and craft a site structure and curriculum that provides engagement for a variety of Fender associate skill levels.

A Site Structure Designed to Motivate and Engage Sales Associates

The global site structure was broken down into four primary sections that would allow users to navigate between content while better understanding the Fender brand and its products. We started by mapping user flows and organizing the content in a way that helps guide the user to intended utilities such as, tracking their progress, accessing lessons and quizzes, discovering the latest news and exclusive Fender content, and contacting online support to answer questions and concerns about the platform.

Providing Sales Knowledge at the Palm of Your Hand

The entire website is built off of a flexible, modular and fully responsive system that gives sales associates the tools and knowledge from anywhere on the sales floor. Users now have the ability to begin their learning experience from their laptop and pick up right where they left off using their mobile device - keeping them connected throughout their day.

Creating an Educational Hub for Fender Certified Sales Associates

We catered the experience to give users the opportunity to track, manage and explore content. By creating a user portal within the Academy section, we were able to push a majority of the educational content to the user from the homepage. This allowed users to stay up-to-date with the latest news and releases from Fender, while giving them the ability to quickly dive back into unfinished lessons.

The Academy Section

We created a place for users to test their knowledge and learn Fender IQ points through organized chapter cards, course objectives, and lesson based cirriculum. 

Learn Landing Page

We wanted to enable users to view all categories and chapters. If a user has completed a category, it will show their score indicating how they’ve performed and what they still need to complete.

Learn Chapter Pages

Each chapter gives users a brief overview of the course content as well as the learning objectives in the chapter.

Learn Lesson Pages

Within each chapter, there are numerous lessons that cover specific topics. For each topic, the learning experience is focused on educating users on the 4 key categories - history, specs, style and sound.

Learn Quizzes

For each lesson, the user will be prompted to take a multiple-choice review quiz. Users are graded according to a percentage and rewarded with Fender IQ according to their performance.

Fender IQ. A Flexible Rewards System to Drive Incentives & Engagements

Once we added structure to the platform, we created several rough concepts around the design direction, but we were still in need of that missing link which would excite users to engage with the content. There were dozens of hours of learning content within the Academy portion of the site that still needed to be rationalized with the user. Brainstorming concepts around gamification, which would help amplify the core experience of the site by applying motivational techniques to drive users to interact, led us to the idea around Fender IQ.  This gamified point system that rewards sales associates for both learning lesson materials and engaging with content across the site incentivizes users to engage in the platform through rewards and certifications for points earned. 

Creating a System for Assessment

With Fender IQ, we were able to build a certification system for sales associates. To make this happen, we created a tiered structure that automatically awards user certification levels as they reach specific IQ points. Fender IQ points are based on user participation - IQ points are earned based on how many lessons you successfully complete. This is the key that made the system flexible and scalable to implement in numerous prizes, new lessons, and quizzes.

Fender IQ 0 - 100 = Uncertified / Perks Only

Fender IQ 100 - 150 = Fender Bronze Certification

Fender IQ 150 - 180 = Fender Silver Certification

Fender IQ - 180+ = Fender Master Certification

Engaging Users Through News, Articles and Exclusive Content

While education was a focal point, we also wanted to make sure users found the platform engaging and refreshing. As a next step in our design, we needed to create a place to introduce, preview, and promote new product initiatives in an engaging rich media experience.


When users log in, the dashboard acts as the hub to present their Fender IQ status while serving as a personal Academy feed for curriculum and content updates.

The Latest

We also introduced a section into Fender Academy called ‘Latest’. With this section, we enabled users to engage with relevant brand content and rich media such as brand videos, product launch calendars, upcoming events and reward announcements. Much like the ‘Learn’ pages, users are rewarded with extra Fender IQ points for engaging in the content.



Surfacing Tools and Utilities for the Sales Floor

Bringing education at every touchpoint of the sales process was key to better understanding Fender’s product life cycles and new releases. We wanted to provide retail and sales tools to sales associates and allow access to everything from product release dates to PDF downloads.


The Calendar section allows sales associates to stay informed on the latest Fender product releases to better inform their consumers directly on the sales floor.


Sales associates were looking for a way to quickly access tools directly from the sales floor. We created the downloads section where users can quickly access helpful retail tools, such as catalogs, manuals, warranties and sales sheets - all in one place.

Platform Education

At the core of the platform, we created a rich educational experience that allows sales associates to learn about the Fender brand and products in a way that feels less like work and more like discovery.


A modular system was key for giving the Fender technical team the ability to update content quickly and easily. It also allowed us to build a system where content writers can easily use enticing exclusive videos, sound and imagery to better support the content.


By introducing Fender IQ, we were able to increase engagement by encouraging and rewarding sales associates to embrace the platform. By introducing gamification, we are incentivizing and rewarding users’ loyalty, and in return, helping better educate them on Fender products.

Scalability & Globalization

The new Fender Academy was built to scale with the ability to house new product releases, chapter learning, quizzes and tests.

Want to work with us? Get In Touch