October 18, 2015

A bus man’s holiday – if you work in marketing

My last summer holidays were enjoyable as well as being fascinating. In this post, I would like to take to share three observations inspired by this time away.

1. We talk lots about happiness, but what about fun? This realisation struck me as I spend two weeks in environments carefully designed to deliver optimum levels of fun. Yes, I am talking about our visit to the Orlando theme parks. What was particularly interesting was the fact that it soon became apparent that not all fun is equal, or more precisely, equivalent. Visiting one park after another allowed me to see that the delivery of fun can be differentiated.

  • Disney, as one might expect, excelled at a magical fun which warms the hearts of the whole family. It offers rides, shows and experiences which don’t exclude and cater to our desire for nostalgia (if we are older), or dreams and fantasies (if we are younger).
  • Universal is more thrilling and will instead get hearts beating faster. The rides and experiences are more intense, attacking all our senses with great energy. And they are not for everyone: it has been calculated that a total of 21 attractions at Universal Orlando have height requirements, for an average of 10.5 per park, whilst at Walt Disney World, the average is 4.75 per park.

2. Visiting Orlando also brought home the power of brands. Whilst the parks themselves are effectively brands in their own right, they also encapsulate a maelstrom of other brands. In fact, I think it would be more appropriate to use the analogy of a galaxy (that’s the park) which contains many different stars, some of which are fading, and some of which are burning bright and very strong. It’s doesn’t take long to think of some examples.

  • At Universal, there is an ET ride, which is certainly charming, but will be lost on anyone born after 1990. Over the past couple of years there have been rumours brewing that the ride will be placed.
  • A star of a very different nature, also at Universal, is Harry Potter. Now this has proved to be a winning addition, glowing bright and strong, drawing people in. According to a piece in the New York Times, “When Universal Orlando opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter four years ago, that resort went from an also-ran to a must-visit almost overnight. Year-on-year attendance shot up 30 percent as families swarmed the snow-capped shops of Hogsmeade and rode three Potter-themed rides.”

3. My final observation relates to the role of technology in the whole experience. Technology is clearly a very broad term and gives me licence to touch upon a variety of different angles.

  • There is the technology that is involved in the delivery of experiences themselves. I wasn’t so interested in what makes the rides so whizzy and fast, though the use of electro-magnetic propulsion on Cheetah Hunt (at Busch Gardens) was a particular highlight.
  • What was more noteworthy was the use of media to enhance rides, something which Universal has been accused of relying on to excess. Rather than be physically transported to different scenes, you are thrown about in your ‘carriage’ with 3D film visuals and sound bouncing around you. It worked to wonderful effect in the Simpsons ride (which was refreshingly humorous – most rides tend to be either scary, sweet or awe-inspiring).
  • There is also more ancillary technology which acts as a facilitator to make visiting parks easier and more convenient. Here I am thinking of the park apps, of which my husband became very fond, so much so that he still continues to check them now periodically some two months after our trip! Planning a trip to minimise queueing and wasted time becomes a form of entertainment in its own right. Having chatted with other families who have done this kind of holiday, print-outs with highlighted sections and spread sheets become de rigeur.
  • Though we personally did not use this, I should also mention the Disney MagicBands. These are equipped with radio frequency identification chips that interact with scanners throughout the park. These MagicBands allow guests to gain access to everything from their hotel rooms to rides and attractions. Though it was not straightforward to get these off the ground , they represent the ultimate in terms of CRM. Interestingly, Disney itself now prefers to talk about Customer Managed Relationships, claiming that it is putting into place initiatives that put the guests in control, despite the fact that the bands are collecting endless amounts of data for Disney about each little thing the customer does, when and where.

I’ll end with a bonus photo of the cleaning staff at Disney. They are in immaculate white uniforms and in constant contact with the Powers That Be to ensure they focus their efforts on where it is most needed. Disney is proud of the fact that it overmanages. When it comes to clean toilets with lots of loo roll, that’s fine by me!

Disney cleaner uniform

August 18, 2015

Delightful detail

Filed under: Consumer Trends,Marketing — by xrematon @ 8:36 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

My recent holiday experience consisted of the ultimate experience: two weeks in various US theme parks. In this post, I would like to focus on my impressions of the aesthetics.

Firstly, it is important to make clear that the local aesthetics outside of theme parks, ie what you see driving around Orlando, is really very unappealing. Florida is flat – there are no undulating contours to shape the horizon and give interest to the countryside. Instead, there are big wide roads of several lanes on each side, bordered by an endless succession of ugly boxes with some kind of commercial purpose, either to sell cheap material goods or cheap food. You might turn off into a more residential area, but it is hard to see the houses or flats as they are often tucked away as gated communities.

So the rich visuals offered by walking around the theme parks came as a welcome surprise. In contrast to the lack of concern for appearance found in Florida retail spaces, here no detail was forgotten and I expect many are not even noticed by visitors. For my first example, see the little brass pot-things on the bridge above a rapids ride found in the Asia section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I am not sure there was any functional purpose to them, but they certainly help to add to the atmosphere.

Ornate bridge

My next examples are from Universal and demonstrate the attention to detail in creating the sense of place. Universal is where all things Harry Potter are found, and whilst it is easy to be amazed by the reconstruction of Hogwarts, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, I was also taken with the presentation of London before you enter Diagon alley. Here you find the right sort of bins (the bins varied across the park, depending on the theme) and you can even get Golden Wonder crisps from the snack van.

London binsGolden Wonder crisps

In a similar vein, please admire the (fake) barnacles at the bottom of this gateway (from the Chinese pavilion at Disney’s Epcot).


Last but not least, the floor was often used to add another level of depth to the scenes being created. In the lead up to Ariel’s grotto at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, there were many beautiful sea shells. Here below is a picture taken from the paths around the Jurassic Park ride at Universal. You can see footprints and roots starting to burst through – all quite subtly done.

Footprints in the ground

Maybe you hadn’t even noticed!

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