When I was a kid, there were two things I really wanted in life. Satellite TV and to go to Disneyland. What I got was a terrestrial TV curfew of 8pm and wet-weather hiking holidays in North Wales. I now look back on these days of subjugation with fondness, the annals of time reducing the upset I endured with every passing year.
I vowed to avenge this when I had my own kids. So, when the Disneyland holidays advert came on (during a commercial break on Sky 1 I might add – vengeance achieved), there was no question. I had to fulfil my near life-long commitment to myself, to the mites, to the Mouse.
On arrival, I was struck by Disney’s investment in technology to enhance and simplify the user experience. It was significant, and far and away the most powerful and smartest example I’ve witnessed by a live entertainment business.
The new Magic Band is the crowning glory of Disney’s simple technological integration. A personalised bracelet that is your all-in-one door key, meal allowance and merchandise procurer. Strap one of these bad boys on to the wrists of a family of five and three things happen. First, the freedoms it allows for the youngest to the oldest members of the pack are visible and powerful. Second, you spend more (everything feels free until Dad picks up the bill on day ten, but cost controls can be enforced to reduce bill shock). And all this consequently means that, three, the Mouse gets his cheese. Lots of it.
I predict that not only will the Magic Band drive more talkability, engagement, surprise and delight; it will significantly drive revenue for Disney. A reputation boost that pays back in spades. This brilliant use of technology creates a single, simple user experience that keeps you coming back for more – whether for a hot dog, the new Buzz Lightyear ride or a commemorative pin that can now be yours with the flick of a wrist.
Barcelona’s Casa Batlló – Antoni Gaudí’s former home, now the site of a modernist museum dedicated to his genius – is also embracing technology. Using augmented reality, the museum harnesses the power of technology to bring to life the museum’s artworks and architecture. Instead of your standard audio guide or map, visitors are given an over-sized smartphone through which, with a simple point-and-shoot mechanism, they can reveal the interactive secrets of Gaudí’s true genius. In situ, a light-fitting transforms into a flying turtle, or an empty sitting room is restored to its former glory as it would have been when the man himself was living there.
UK theme park and live entertainment companies need to take heed from the tech investment their US and European competitors have made. It’s not about technology for technology’s sake, but subtle, integrated tech that enhances the experience – and enhances the brand. More and more smart companies are using technology to drive their reputation – and drive their bottom line – often without us even realising it. Now that’s magic.
Stuart Jackson is a co-founder of UP Communications