“Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.”
When you arrive in Disney World, these words greet you as you pass through the entryway arch. You leave behind reality and step into fantastic lands of adventure and, arguably, magic. Disney has long delighted theme park guests wishing to engage personally with its characters. Apart from the wondrous rides and worlds, the attention to detail and level of service provided by “cast members,” as employees are known, create a customer experience that evokes a feeling of pure magic. Sure, attraction lines can be long and it is frustrating to wait in the entrance queue, but who cares when you’re at the ‘happiest place on earth?’
But what if you didn’t have to wait in line? What if with a bracelet, you could enter your hotel room and the parks seamlessly, ride Space Mountain whenever you want, eat at your favorite restaurant, greet Cinderella and still nab the perfect spot in time for fireworks… all without your wallet or waiting in line?1 That would have to be real magic, right? Nope, just Disney gone digital.
“Big data” has transformed what companies can know about their customers and, in turn, how they can better engage with them. Disney has invested $1 billion in an initiative called ‘MyMagic+’ to capitalize on data and personalize the park experience.2 Gone are resort keycards and paper FastPass tickets. Everything a guest needs is accessible via wristbands, or ‘MagicBands,’ as they have been dubbed. Equipped with RFID chips that interact with scanners throughout the park, MagicBands function as a guest’s room key, theme park ticket, and credit card, and have all reservations loaded so all guests need do is scan their band for anything they desire.3
This has enabled vast improvements in an already magical experience. Prior to arriving at Disney World, guests can plan meal reservations, book FastPass tickets for their favorite rides, snag the best spots for viewing fireworks and skip lines to greet characters either online or from the ‘MyMagic’ app.4 Gone are the bottlenecks when entering the park – instead, guests simply tap their MagicBand at a kiosk and proceed in for a day of fun. The ability to reserve FastPasses in advance has also vastly alleviated ride queues, aided by real-time attraction wait times available via the MyMagic app.5 If the app says Space Mountain has a 90-minute line, consumers will instead head to Splash Mountain that only has a five-minute wait.
Disney has also been able to use this data to enhance the “magic” for the consumer. Since they have your purchasing history, Disney knows that today is your daughter’s birthday and that she is an Ariel fan.6 Your MagicBand sends a signal directly to cast members around the corner and at the Little Mermaid show, Ariel greets your daughter by name and with a “Happy Birthday!”7 Disney has even begun to personalize attraction experiences. For example, as your cart leaves “It’s a Small World,” your band signals the digital screen which then bids you adieu by name.8 Through data and the ease of purchasing with the MagicBand, Disney is adding extra magic for the consumer and is making extra money.
But in addition to benefiting from the digital revolution, Disney has also been disrupted. Nearly 50% of TWDC’s profit comes from its cable television networks.9 With digital streaming services like Netflix transforming the television landscape, many consumers no longer see the value of paying for cable, dramatically reducing subscriber fees and advertising revenue for some of Disney’s properties like ESPN.10 Furthermore, consumers now expect to be able to consume content at any time on any device – it is far more seamless to open your Hulu app and watch the latest episode of Scandal rather than be in front of your TV at 9pm every Thursday.
But all is not lost. Those same consumers that Disney has data on from visiting the park are the same individuals consuming Grey’s Anatomy on ABC, watching Monday Night Football on ESPN and tuning in to Doc McStuffins on Disney Channel. Instead of one consumer having separate accounts for planning their Disney World vacation and consuming their favorite content, Disney should incentivize customers to merge their accounts into one comprehensive “Disney ID.” In doing so, Disney will be able to capitalize on the vast amount of stored data and continue personalizing the experience for its consumers across all properties. Furthermore, as the cable ecosystem deteriorates and more networks go direct-to-consumer, Disney will be primed to create the most curated, highly targeted and seamless experience for its consumers should it decide to purse a DTC option. Both consumers and advertisers will benefit greatly, and Disney will be better armed to tackle the most alarming challenge facing the industry currently – with a little magic.
(800 words, excluding citations)
 USA Today, “Disney Gets Personal with New MyMagic+ System.” http://www.usatoday.com/story/dispatches/2014/01/27/disney-mymagic-vacation-planning/4582957/. Accessed November 16, 2016.
 Wired, “Disney’s $1 Billion Bet On a Magical Wristband.” https://www.wired.com/2015/03/disney-magicband/. Accessed November 17, 2016.
 The New York Times, “A Billion Dollar Bracelet is the Key to a Disney Park.” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/02/business/billion-dollar-bracelet-is-key-to-magical-kingdom.html?_r=0. Accessed November 16, 2016.
 The New York Times, “A Billion Dollar Bracelet is the Key to a Disney Park.”
 Fox News Travel, “Disney Unveils Line-Reducing MyMagic+ Technology.” http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2013/01/08/disney-unveils-line-reducing-mymagic-technology.html. Accessed November 18, 2016.
 Wired, “Disney’s $1 Billion Bet On a Magical Wristband.”
 Wired, “Disney’s $1 Billion Bet On a Magical Wristband.”
 Fox35, “Thanks to MagicBand, Disney’s “Small World” Ride Has Personalized Goodbye.” http://www.fox35orlando.com/news/local-news/107410373-story. Accessed November 17, 2016.
 The Walt Disney Company, 10-K. https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1001039/000100103915000255/fy2015_q4x10k.htm. Accessed November 16, 2016.
 Business Insider, “ESPN Made 2 Critical Mistakes, and Now It’s Paying the Price.” http://www.businessinsider.com/espn-mistakes-led-to-layoffs-2015-10. Accessed November 17, 2016.