I grew up in what you might call “a Disney family”. What this means is as a child growing up we always looked forward to our annual road trip from chilly Wisconsin to sunny Florida. We enjoyed the palm trees, cheesy shell shops, orange juice stands and “Meeting the Mouse”. Watching Disney movies and relating the essence of their morals were a part of our lives from an early age. (I also spent most of my early life trying to figure out how I might in fact become a real princess. My husband might tell you I never really stopped trying to find a way…)
It was a magical place in my eyes where anything could happen. Once you entered the park entrance you were no longer just in Orlando… you were in some other worldly realm where things that don’t happen in our every day lives could in fact be possible behind these gold spray-painted gates…
The New York Times recently published an article talking about the advances in technology that Disney was looking to make, involving the collection of customer data. As you can imagine, I was intrigued.
“Disney plans to begin introducing a vacation management system called MyMagic+ that will drastically change the way Disney World visitors — some 30 million people a year — do just about everything.”
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To summarize, starting this spring, Disney will be issuing “MagicBands” wrist bracelets instead of tickets that will be encoded with your personal data and credit card information. MagicBands will function as a room key, ticket and more.
“If we can enhance the experience, more people will spend more of their leisure time with us,” said Thomas O. Staggs, chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts.
What does this mean exactly? A couple things. For one, you no longer need to pull out a credit card when you want to make a purchase. All activities get encrypted onto your wristband, both transactional and non-transactional park use to track your interests and purchases. For example, you arrived at the park early, you bought ice cream, rode the Tower of Terror 3 times (smart move) and got pictures with Goofy and Donald. After your day of “magical activity” Disney now has a very strong data-driven picture of who you are, what your interests are, and what kinds of promotions would be of highest interest to you.
There is a lot of negative feedback coming in about Disney owning your data. I can see a case for both sides, but I strongly believe that Disney is making the right moves to stay relevant in a very high tech, evolving world. It’s important to note that guests will not be forced to use the MagicBand system, and people who do try it will decide how much information to share, (or to include their children).
Sure they will know what we like and what we purchase, sure they will find ways to market to us with this personalized knowledge, but they also can now provide shorter lines, ease of use, safety of being able to quickly locate a lost child, and an overall more personalized experience.
The characters can now greet your child with their name, wish them a happy birthday, and ask how they liked meeting Goofy. To me, these are all steps that help keep the magic alive for the next generation, and a strategic move for Disney to stay relevant.
The magical things that wowed me as a 6 year old no longer hold through the test of time… and I love that Disney is looking for new ways to reinvent the magical experience that speaks to a new generation.