Magical Marketing - Learning the Ropes From Mickey

by Paula Pollock
After returning from a week in the heat and rain of Florida theme park hopping, I wanted to share my marketing take-aways from my consumer experience. Some are pretty obvious, but since we can all learn from other businesses I wanted to share something fun at the end of the summer. Here's my 2cents from my Disney, Universal and Cape Kennedy visits.


Make it Easy for me to Buy -  Parents like photos of their kids having fun. Disney is the best at this, but they can get in your face a little. My favorite was the gal at Blizzard Beach water park who took photos of kids crossing fake icebergs under a rope bridge. She would place a rubberband with a laminated ticket for you to see your photo. No one is carrying a camera in a water park. Perfect!

Keep Sufficient Inventory - Every major ride ends in a themed gift shop. That captive marketing and lends itself to the immediate sale (not to mention the stores are air-conditioned.) One suggestions - keep them well stocked. We had to go to three different shops to find "Mickey gloves" not "Minnie gloves". And, all the  Hermione Granger wands were sold out.

Beat the Theme into the Ground - After standing in lines with thousands of sweaty tourists, anyone would need a drink (not in the Magic Kingdom - fyi). Eating, drinking and shopping in theme takes the edge off the blatent capitalism. My top three: Pommery Champagne in France (Epcot), Apfelkorn schnappes in Germany (Epcot), and Butterbeer in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - creme soda with a butter froth - that really does give you that thick foam mustache.


Be Honest - Some of these parks are not for younger kids. There were very few parts of Epcot or Universal's Islands of Adventure that young kids would enjoy. For Disney Parks, you can use the Fast-Pass system at some of the rides, but often if you don't get your pass first thing they are all distributed by 11am for every good ride. Universal's special pass that allows you to jump the line costs an additional $50 per person per day. The alternative is waiting 30-90 minutes per ride. That's not how to create brand loyality.

Plan Your Staffing - During the first two weeks of August, Orlando looses close to 32,000 employees who go back to their country and school (according to a 12 year Disney employee.) In this weak economy, they could have planned ahead for their exodus and have a trained team ready. Closing attractions because you're under staffed while still charging the same rates is absurd.

Used Car Tactics Always Annoy - Like lipstick on a pig, mouse ears on the Vegas strip doesn't cut it. Sadly both Universal City Walk Downtown Disney get C- for their attraction value. As a paying ticket holder you must walk through City Walk at Universal to get to anything. It's loud, in-your-face and sets the wrong first impression. Downtown Disney is less obnoxious and you don't need to go there, but they do count it on your ticket as a "Fun Plus" visit. The reason I don't give them both F grades? Their target is not me. It's the local teenagers with money who can come every Friday and Saturday night. It's their version of the Mall.

You're Never "Too Cool" to Market - Cape Kennedy was great...if you're a space/astronaut enthusiast or over 40. Otherwise, you have a lot of kids who couldn't care less. They ARE competing with Disney and Universal. These are children of the Internet and video games. (NASA: If you are listening. I can help you with your marketing.) While I know that the men and women who train, test and get blasted into space are some of the bravest people on earth my son doesn't get that. You need to create your next market.
Okay - so there it is. Marketing according to Paula, Mickey Mouse, Universal Studios and Cape Kennedy. Each have pluses and minuses. What we can learn is you can never stop testing your brand and your marketing. Your audience evolves and has new and different needs. If I had to pick a winner it would be Disney. They understand that the grandparents have the money. While the grandchildren drive the entertainment choices, they know how to appease the "wallet". Universal and Cape Kennedy need some lessons there.

Paula Pollock is CEO of the Pollock Marketing Group, further assisting good companies in becoming great through outsourced marketing services with her team of professionals. PMG supports business marketing at all levels from DIY, short-term projects and Virtual CMO/Marketing Department. You can sign up to receive her Marketing Tips newsletter at

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