Month: July 2014

Marketing Lessons from the Theme Parks of Universal Studios

Marketing Lessons from Universal Studios

I just returned from a very short (but fun-filled) weekend in Orlando, Florida!  It was my first time there and like most people that visit the city, I was excited to visit the theme parks!  My entire weekend was spent at Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure where I got to indulge my inner child with endless rides and visits to both Hosgmeade and Diagon Alley at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Funny enough – it was at the theme parks that made me realize a few valuable marketing lessons for 2014!

Thinking About the Customer Experience

Going to theme parks like Universal Studios Florida can be quite the experience. Every detail is thought out – from the layout of the parks to the queue waiting areas, all aspects of a person’s visit is carefully planned out and considered.  Because we went during the weekend, there was no avoiding the crowds and the line-ups.  Nonetheless, the wait for some of the rides was so much more tolerable when the queue area was made to be part of the ride experience like the Amazing Adventures of Spider Man ride where the queue takes you through the office of the Daily Bugle or the Transformer 3D ride where you get to watch footage clips instructing you on your ‘mission’.

Marketing Take-Away: Think about your customer’s experience from the beginning to end and find ways to make the process more enjoyable for them.  Identify the steps in the process that might be problematic for your customers or where you predict fall off and find ways to improve or even delight your customers!

All in the Details

One of the most memorable experiences at Universal Studios Florida was visiting the newly opened Diagon Alley! From the moment you walk through the non-descript entrance and into Diagon Alley, you’re transported into a whole new world of magic!  Everywhere you look – every sign, store front, employee was made to be part of your wizarding world experience.   For example, in the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, there were flying brooms and cauldrons if you looked up. At Ollivander’s, you were taken through a guided tour and selected audience members got to experience what Harry experienced in the first movie when he picked up his first wand.  The restaurants sold butterbeers and pumpkin juice in addition to the regular selection of sodas and juices.

Marketing Take-Away: These small details present wonderful opportunities to delight and surprise your customers when they least expect it.  These small details don’t have to take a lot of effort but can have huge impact in your overall customer satisfaction.

Integrate with Technology

When we walked in to the park, one of the employees informed us where we could go to find out more about waiting times for each of the rides.  He also told us that there was an app that we could download which would provide information like wait times directly to us through our smartphones.

Marketing Take-Away: While we didn’t download the app (we had limited access to data), Universal identified an area that could cause dissatisfaction in their attendees and found a way, using technology, to keep everyone informed.  You don’t have to build an app to keep your customers updated and informed.  Email notifications, phone calls or a web page where they can check job status can also be ways to keep customers happy.


The basic admission will only grant you access to the park.  While you’re free to go on all the rides, you have to line-up.  Depending on the season or day of the week, lines have been know to take over 5 hours!  If you wanted to avoid line-ups or cut your waiting time, there is an option to purchase an Express Pass which would put you in the priority line.

Marketing Take-Away: You want to make sure your products and services are open to everyone (or as inclusive as they can be) but consider reserving premium services, add-ons or exclusive experiences for those that are willing to pay more.  The exclusivity can also help you create value for your services. The decision to pay more remains with the customers and those that decide it is worthwhile to pay more, will.

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Understanding the Power of Habit

The Power of Habit
I started reading a book the other day called “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg.  The book is an examination of how routines and habits are created, where they reside and how having this understanding can help us change bad habits or to create new ones.

I’ve only just started but it’s been a very interesting read so far!  If you think about your day, so much of what you do is by habit and not as a result of active decision making.  What do you do first when you wake up in the morning?  Which shoe do you tie first? Which route do you take the work? According to a paper published in 2006 by a Duke University researcher, as much as 40% of actions people take throughout day were as a result of habits, not actual decisions!

A quote that spoke to me from the first few pages is from William James back in 1892: “All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits.”

If so many of our actions are a result of habits and these habits are ingrained over time, how possible is it for us to bring about change?  We often hear the saying “people don’t change” as if people are tied to their habits and prone to repeating themselves.  Even though I’ve only gotten through the first few pages, one fact is clear.  Habits can be changed… and it often starts with a single small change which eventually leads to many and much bigger changes.

This is interesting, especially from a marketing standpoint.  We, as marketers, are always wanting to alter habits.  We want attract new leads and new customers which requires a change in their purchase behaviour (which is often made by habit).  How can we position our products and services in a way that will bring about a change in habit?

I am looking forward to reading more on this topic and understanding more about the mysteries that the human mind holds.  Only an understanding of habits (no matter how basic)  – how they are formed, where they reside, why they resonate – can help us know better how to change our bad habits or create new ones altogether!

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