Context is Magic: How Disney is Creating the Future of Consumer Engagement

Posted by Taylor Haney on Mon, Oct 27, 2014

As October comes to a close we have a few more fantastic UX and Design posts to share with you so stay tuned! To start off the week we have a blog by Mark Berinato, Creative Director of Experience Design at SapientNitro. Mark discusses the latest integrated experiences Disney is implementing and what we can all learn from their successful strategies. Interested in guest blogging? Next month's theme is eCommerce, e-mail taylor[at]mitx[dot]org if you would like to contribute.

Mark BerinatoMark Berinato is a Creative Director of Experience Design and leads the UX practice at SapientNitro in Boston.  When he’s not at the whiteboard sketching out solutions to client problems you’ll probably find him restoring his 130 year old barn.

Just over a year ago, Disney introduced MyMagic+ into their park experience. MyMagic+ is powerful: these RFID-enabled wristbands take the place of a park ticket, serve as your hotel key and allow you to cut the line and easily purchase things along the way. And if you happen to have a bad experience – like waiting too long in line, for example – Disney can make it up to you with a special offer or discount through the RFID wristband. All of this by storing personal information and preferences.

But these wristbands are also magical. My daughter’s favorite character is Cinderella ( I’ve somehow avoided the “Frozen” avalanche). Imagine an experience in which we can know beforehand where Cinderella will be and optimize our itinerary around that. When we arrive, Cinderella can greet us by name and know my daughter’s birthday or her favorite song (if we choose). After the meet up Cinderella can send us an exclusive invite to a special dinner with her.

What this really means is that your family is transformed from a visitor in the park, to a player in the overall Disney brand story. The brand fuels passion and consumers expand the impact through participation in the story.

The convergence of Content, Data, Personalization and Mobility will redefine expectations for brand experiences. This represents the future of customer engagement. Content drives engagement, data creates personal experiences and mobile/wearables provide real time experiences. Disney’s taken the lead and created this at scale through significant investment, but there’s much to be learned by all brands from Disney’s playbook. Here are five key ways that Disney delivers on the experience:

Sapient blog 2Deepening the experience

How can you make your core experience even better?

For Disney, it was about elevating the service: using technology to eliminating lines, create itinerary tools and provide transparency into the experience.

Creating new occasions

How can you bring your brand into new and relevant places?

Disney reinvented the trip planning experience—moving it from simply a transactional web booking experience to an extension of the park experience. Consumers now unbox their magic bands (personalized with names and paired with suggested accessories) and are guided through the first step on their vacation experience. What was once a completely transactional experience now builds anticipation for the trip.

Celebrating consumer creativity

How can you create a platform for your customers to express their own creativity?

The experience extends to the rides themselves. On Epcot's TestTrack ride, Disney allows riders to create a customized concept car, virtually drive it around a test track. The bands make it easy for people to share their car and driving performance on social channels

Advocating for consumer passions

How can you make the experience relevant to your consumer’s passions?

Disney wants to amplify and celebrate family moments. To do so, they’ve integrated the bands with their Memory Maker photo service. This relieves the burden of having to worry about capturing high-quality photos at every moment. It’s not a replacement for impulse iPhone photos and videos, but it gives guests reassurance that the most important moments will be captured and saved.

What this all means

Disney is betting big on MyMagic+. Analysts estimate an $800 million to $1 billion investment. And the early results are positive. Hotel bookings are up 7% and per-room spending is up just about 5% per night. But the lesson for all brands is that customer expectations for this type of integrated experience will soon increase. Even without a Disney-sized investment, all brands can learn from Disney’s playbook.