Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Thoughts on Walt Disney World – Part 1

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I’ve been computer-free for the last week spending time with the family at Walt Disney World, hence the absence of new posts. I was Twittering throughout the trip, much to the dismay of my wife and daughter, and even raised the ire of our waitress at the Prime Time Cafe (more on that later). You can go to my Twitter page (see link in the sidebar) if you want to relive my vacation tweet by tweet.

Disney is one of the world’s greatest marketers and their parks and resorts make great case studies in a number of areas including engagement and customer experience design, marketing and new media. Over the next couple of days, I’m going to discuss some of my recent experiences, both good and bad.

Surprise & Delight

Every year, Disney selects a theme and aligns all of their park and resort operations around it. This year, is”The Year of A Million Dreams” and to help “make your dreams come true”, Disney is having their cast members randomly give out over a million “dreams” including chances to spend the night in Cinderella’s castle, “Dream Fastpass” badges which gives you unlimited access to all major attractions bypassing the waiting line and a Grand Marshall Tour of Disney parks around the world.

There are no contests to enter, or disclosing of contact information. Someone just walks up to you and makes you a winner. You just need to be in the right place at the right time and even the cast members don’t know the when, where or what of the giveaway until just before it happens. I met several people who were given dream Fastpass badges and they were ecstatic about it. The really enjoyed telling their stories to anyone who would listen. And consider how much fun it is for the cast members to be able to execute the giveaways. That has to help with cast member engagement. Surprising & Delighting your customers is an important ingredient in the creating great experiences that your customers will tell others about.

Make Individuals Feel Special

Speaking of engagement, Disney cast members are almost universally programmed to react to badges that special guests wear, My daughter had her 13th birthday while we were there and so we went to the City hall in the Magic Kingdom to get a birthday badge. From that moment on, virtually every cast member that we encountered made it a point to wish her a happy birthday. Every table service restaurant that we went to, brought out a birthday cupcake without us having to ask. Of course, my daughter loved the attention so much that she continued to wear the badge long after her birthday. This is a great example of how to make a customer feel special without having to spend a lot of financial capital.

Reward Me For My Patronage

At Disney, different levels of commitment come with different perks. For example, purchasing an annual pass (which is roughly the cost of 8 days in the parks), gets you some serious discounts on Disney Resort hotels. Staying at Disney resort hotels comes with their own set of rewards, not the least of which is convenience. A couple of years ago, Disney started offering Extra Magic Hours at the parks for guests staying at Disney hotels. The program gets you into the parks an hour earlier and allows you to stay up to 2 hours after closing. Disney gets 3 additional hours of access to your wallet and you get a couple of extra rides on your favorite attraction. To the uninitiated, this is a pretty good reason to stay on Disney property. If you are a regular guest like I am, you know the real secret is to stay away from the park that has early entry because that’s where the crowds are going to be. With this program, Disney rewards their Resort guests with a tangible benefit.

Tomorrow, I’ll get into some other topics like how Disney is involving the customer in co-creating the experience. In the meantime, think about the experiences you create for your customers. Do you Surprise & Delight? Do you make your customers feel special? Do you reward them for their patronage? If you do, great. If you don’t, perhaps you should take a trip to Disney World and learn a few lessons from Walt and Mickey.

Part 2 of this series is here.

Brand Engagement – Apple Store

Do you have young teenagers? If so, do they like to go to the mall and hang out at the Apple Store and take goofy pictures of themselves using “Photo Booth”? If so, you are not alone. Young teens share a couple of common traits:

  1. They have time to kill, but not a lot of money
  2. They are hyper-connected and highly social
  3. They like to play with stuff
  4. They love the Apple Store

If you ask them why, they will tell you “It’s Fun!” or “Because the have cool stuff to do there”. Flip that around and ask them why they don’t love to hang out at the the big CE retailers and you probably hear them say “there’s nothing for us to do there.”

How does Apple feel about all the kids always in their store playing with the cool stuff, but not buying anything. They absolutely encourage it. Sure, the kids can be obnoxious and disruptive, but they are also engaging with the brand in a way that most other purchasing segments never will. Apple is smart enough to realize that these kids have a significant say in family technology purchases today, and in a few years, when they become purchasers, Apple will be top of mind for them.

How strong is this brand engagement? I often use my soon-to-be-13-year-old daughter as a barometer. Statistically invalid, but directionally OK. She called me into the family room yesterday because she wanted to show me the cool menu that she had built for a DVD she was making for her friends. It was “cool” and I told her so (egos need lots of strokes at this age), but then the first scene of content began, she really had my atention. It was entitled “The Apple Store”. It’s a simple slideshow set to music. The images are a collection of manipulated Photo Booth pictures taken of her and her friends in the store and e-mailed home over the last year. (Interesting thought as I am writing…. it would have never crossed my mind even five years ago that kids would be creating and publishing their own movies, but I’ll save that for another post).

So this post could be about several things that I like to rant about. The migration of content from Mass to Personal. The consumer technology that makes this easy. The close, hyper-connected relationships that today’s youth have with each other. But the big takeaway for me is that Apple, either by accident or by design, has tapped into the next generation of digital lifestyle consumers and they are totally engaged with the brand. Can you imagine kids making movies about their experiences at Circuit City or Best Buy?

But Apple has figured it out. Whether its the purchasing customer or just the pack of kids passing through on their daily romp through the mall, Apple knows that brand engagement is created not through finding, selecting and purchasing a bundle of products and services. That’s an orthodoxy that they have clearly overturned. They understand it’s created through customer experience, but not just during the in-store transaction. They design the experience around the customer’s (or future customer’s) life.

AppleTV Interface Walkthrough

If you’re thinking about getting the AppleTV next month then you should checkout this walk through of the interface. It looks very slick. Again, Apple has scored in making a piece of hardware (AppleTV) and software (iTunes) that integrates seamlessly and makes it quite easy to use.  Beyond being seamless and easy, there is something else about the interface design that really clicks with me.  Perhaps it’s just the “cool factor” that seems to come naturally to Apple engineers or the fact that the interface itself is both beautiful and entertaining.  Whatever the reason, the design is totally engaging and very well may be disruptive to the CE industry which has been unable to find a way to make products that are easy to integrate & use, and also exciting for the consumer.

<via The Wibrary at Untangled Life>.

CBS, Sling & SecondLife???

In case you haven’t see this, CBS will be joined by Sling Media and SecondLife in a presentation at CES today.  I’ll update the post after the details are out.

UPDATE:  So the keynote is over and here’s the skinny.  For the past year of so, we’ve all been talking about “The New Media”,  “Generation C(ontent)”,  “Web twodotwhatever” and so on.  We’ve also been saying that traditional media “doesn’t get it” or is no longer relevant. 

Apparently good old CBS isn’t going to go away quitely.  Instead, they have spent the last year developing lots of new partnerships with everyone from social networking sites for lesbians to SecondLife where a virtual replica of the Starship Enterprise (CBS property) will be made available to residents.  Perhaps that’s a bit over the top, but this is afterall the age of “Individual and Interactive”.  There is no niche too small (right longtailers?) and we all want to play a starring role.

In his keynote address, CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves showed off quite a few of his new friends to demonstrate that CBS “gets it”.

“The symbiotic relationship (between online and television content) will only tighten,” Moonves said. “What’s a big media company like us to do? We’re embracing it big time. We’re doing just about everything we can to see what’s going to work now and in the future.” That often means bringing in people outside CBS to do so, he said.

The partnership with Sling media involves Sling’s latest technology called Clip + Sling. It allows users to clip content from live or recorded TV and share it with anyone, including non-Slingbox owners. The clip can be sent in an e-mail that plays the video from a hosted portal.   It’s not exactly YouTube, so to cover all the bases, CBS also has a joint venture with Google’s latest toy in the form of a contest in which users submit 15-second videos to YouTube about anything they’d like.  The highest-rated video will be broadcast on CBS during this year’s Superbowl.

The message from Moonves is that “there is no such thing as old media and new media.  There’s just media.” Is this kind of media mash-up going to save the traditional guys from extinction?   What do you think?  While you ponder that, I think I’ll head over the the StarTrek sim in SecondLife.  I hear there’s a helluva dance party going on in the shuttle craft bay 🙂

2007 Trend: Wi-Life

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I haven’t written much about Wi-Life (“wireless living”) in a while, but seeing how the gang over at PSFK have identified it as a 2007 Trend, I thought I would share my thoughts (and theirs).    

Bluetooth & WiFi  technologies have been serving the professional world for a few years, allowing us to stay chained to our desks, even when we are not at the office.  OK, more optimistly, they are freeing having to be in fixed locations to accomplish tasks.  This has made us more mobile and has definately changed our behavior.   

Many homes now have wireless routers and high-speed internet (although its still way overpriced in the US compared to other parts of the world).   I started this post in the kitchen, but am finishing it at 12:13 am lying in bed.  Back in the summer, I often wrote posts outside on the patio.   The home office is no longer a dedicated room.  You can take that spare bedroom back now and turn it into something else.  Ours is a scrapbooking room.

PSFK points out that Wi-Life is much more than being able to connect to the web wherever you want and the implications for how we will spend our leisure time in the near-future are really big:

Wireless internet and Bluetooth drives web-telephony as people can make calls from where they want when they want – and the laptop on the sofa offers an alternative to the TV or music center. WiLife means streaming your entertainment however you want. With wireless distribution systems like the Apple iTV, people will be able to use their computers as a kind of entertainment mission control from where they can send video, audio and more through the air to their TVs, Huffs and even your picture frames. (what’s a huff??)

Look at your laptop in your home as your new cable box and your additional hard-drive as your Tivo.  Download your entertainment media from the web, save to your drive and play to any Wife enabled electronic.  In fact, the distribution of media from the home computer to dumb terminals like the TV is a critical factor in the rise of the HearMeSeeMe web.

Of course, WiLife is not just for the home. Ford and Avis have announced a system that will let drivers download directions as they drive and give passengers to download shows and swap files tirelessly in-car.  One day the cars will tell you where in the city your WiFi enabled friends are too.

And WiLife continues when you leave your car. Once we’ve recharged our gadgets with electro-magnetic wireless chargers, we’ll walk around with our phones and pods and these will us wireless technology to download entertainment and information from a media hub in the sky (Ryan talks about how he’ll use the phone in his video here). We’ll take both our record and DD collection around with us once it’s digitized and uploaded to our virtual slate on the web. And where will we play our tunes? At the beaches, parks and streets that cities are busy covering with wireless networks.

The impact of this always-on life is going to be pretty huge. Many of us have already seen our professional life become all-but always-on, now our leisure and social life will undergo a similar revolution.

Another Nail in the DVD Coffin???

A new Video on Demand deal between Comcast and Disney gives Comcast the ability to use some ABC shows for its massive VOD effort as well as broadband. But more importantly, the far-reaching agreement may become the model on which the new media world soon operates.

According to BusinessWeek, Comcast is expected to announce a new TV portal, code-named C-TV, that Disney will help promote through the use of film and TV clips that Comcast would use online. Down the road, the two companies may work more closely together to provide ABC, Disney Channel, and other kinds of programs for the portal as well, according to sources at both companies. But that’s just the start of the relationship…

Disney is expected to help Comcast test the notion of showing movies on demand at the same time the movies are available in DVD stores—effectively shortening the lag time before cable gets access to those films. It’s a development certain to drive major DVD retailers like Wal-Mart (WMT) nuts. “The deal is all about Comcast wedging itself into an online content company and using Disney as a partner to get there,” says UBS analyst Aryeh Bourkoff, who follows both companies.

Both companies have been aggressively trying to improve their image. Disney wants to be seen as more agile and an adopter of new technologies. Comcast needs to update its offerings to remain competitive with Telcos and new media outlets like MySpace. This deal accomplishes both objectives by giving Comcast access to Disney programming for its On Demand service. Disney gets access to more than 24 million Comcast TV subscribers and another 11 million high-speed Internet customers. Disney intends to sell ads for most of its shows. Where will the partnership go from here?  The BusinesWeek article says:

Disney has told Comcast it is willing to participate in a test in two markets, in which it would offer movies on demand three or four months after the movies show up in movie theaters—the same time DVDs are shipped to retailers such as Wal-Mart. Disney has already ruffled feathers among retailers like Wal-Mart and Target (TGT) by offering its movies on Apple’s iTunes site at prices that the large retailers believe are below their wholesale price (see BusinessWeek, 9/11/06, “The Empire Strikes Back”). But this could send folks to Comcast instead of Wal-Mart to buy the DVDs. For Iger, who has said he wants to experiment with narrowing the “windows,” it is a toe in the water.

For Comcast, Disney presents a formidable ally in taking on telcos and others in the battle to deliver movies and TV shows over the Internet. C-TV, the new TV portal due in the coming weeks, is expected to help consumers organize their videos—be they consumer-generated or shows that they have streamed or downloaded from other sites. But down the road, Comcast wants to make episodes of TV shows available online, giving it the ability to offer custom-made channels for shows like Lost or Desperate Housewives. ABC hasn’t agreed to that, but the lines of communication are open since both companies are eager to experiment in the broadband world, according to sources with knowledge of the deal.

Given the extremely tense relationship these two have had in recent years, the new spirit of cooperation is remarkable but also very good for both companies.  In the end it may mean profound changes in how media is bought and consumed and that will be disruptive to retailers who rely on DVD content as a traffic driver.

You Too Can Be A Virtual Couch Potato

OK Folks, this is either going to be good a reason to get into SecondLife, OR a sure sign that we have run out of interesting things to see there, leaving us with nothing to do but set on our virtual couch in our virtual house eating our virtual popcorn and drinking our virtual beer while watching our virtual TV that we got at the virtual Circuit City.

Reporting on an article at MediaGuardian.co.ukPSFK  recently posted…

Channel 4  (BBC?) and the Sci-Fi channel are to start syndicating their content to to Second Life’s first broadband TV network which is due to launch at the end of November 06.

SL techies Rivers Run Red has partnered with 10 content companies to provide material for TV channels on virtuallife.tv.

By the end of 2007, the company aims to have more than 100 specialist channels streaming a mix of branded content and original programming 24 hours a day.

Will the original content be good enough to drive significantly more people to become SL residents, much like the way HBO drove growth in the cable industry in it’s early days?

Microsoft to offer movies, TV shows on game service | Reuters.com

Looks like the predictionfrom fellow WordPress blogger Shsibae was right on the mark as Microsoft announced today that it would rent movies and sell television shows through Internet downloads to its Xbox Live video game service.  

“Microsoft will begin on Nov. 22 to offer standard and high-definition films such as Warner Bros.’  “Superman Returns” and “Jackass: The Movie” from Paramount Pictures through its Xbox Live Marketplace.   Television shows will include Viacom Inc’s  “South Park” and “CSI: NY” from CBS Corp.  Viewers will need the current-generation Xbox 360 console with a hard drive to take advantage of the service.”

Under the rental model, which is reminiscent of the now defunct DivX Disk technology launched by Circuit City Stores back in 1997,  Microsoft customers have a two week window from when they download a movie to watch it, but once they begin watching it they have only 24 hours to keep it. 

With Netflix planning a download service,  Apple’s upcoming iTV,  Amazon’s movie store, On Demand services from cable providers, and Sony’s PS3 video download function (I’ll believe it when I see it), the customer really has a lot of choices.  Which models will survive this tech war?  What will this mean to businesses who sell or rent DVDs?  I can’t say, but it will be fun to watch.

Here are the specifics:

  • Microsoft has not yet disclosed pricing for downloads, but it will be in Microsoft points.
  • Movies will be “rental” only, TV for “purchase” only.
  • At launch there will be over 800 hours of SDTV, and 200 hours of HDTV.
  • Neither TV nor movies are streamed; they are only downloaded, although you can stream short preview clips from the Live interface.
  • You can only download content to your Xbox 360 drive — not to an external drive.
  • Your “purchased” TV programs can be downloaded an infinite amount of times to an infinite amount of consoles; you may also play them back on friends’ 360s with your removable drive.
  • Deleted TV shows can be re-downloaded later; HDTV shows can be re-downloaded in either HDTV or SD.
  • Movies can be watched an unlimited number of times the first 24 hours. Plays after that period will cost the same as the initial download, although the movie data isn’t necessarily deleted. You can keep the movie data on your drive up to 14 days without re-downloading it.
  • Downloads are in VC-1 (aka WMVHD) at 720p, 6.8Mbps video with 5.1 surround.
    An average HD movie download should be between 4-5GB, and a two hour SD movie would be 1.6GB.
  • An average 1 hour (44 min) HDTV download should be about 2.2GB, and an average 1/2 hour (22 min) HDTV download should be about 1GB. A 1 hour SDTV download should be about 600MB, and a 1/2 hour SDTV download should be about 300MB.
  • This service will not be available for MSN TV users, Vongo subscribers, or any other Microsoft partners. It is Xbox Live only.
  • You cannot download programs through the Xbox Live web interface — they can only be transported to your 360’s removable drive.
  • There aren’t any drive announcements being made, but there is a rumor of a 80GB drive coming.  Of course, Microsoft rumors are never true, right?

Launch titles

Aqua Teen Hunger Force
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Batman Forever
Breaking Bonaduce
Carpocalypse
Chappelle’s Show
CSI
Hogan Knows Best
Jackass: The Movie
Jericho
The Matrix
M:i:III
Nacho Libre
Nicktoons Network Animation Festival
Numb3rs
Pimp My Ride
Race Rewind (NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races)
Raising the Roofs
The Real World
Robot Chicken
Skyland
South Park
SpongeBob SquarePants
Star Trek (original)
Superman Returns
50 fights from Ultimate Fighting Championship, and some episodes from The Ultimate Fighter
Microsoft to offer movies, TV shows on game service | Reuters.com

Xbox Live to offer HD Movie Downloads????

Ok, I’m not one who tends to spread rumors, but this one is just too juicy to not pass on.  Fellow WordPress blogger Shsibae (who is no more credible than me), posted yesterday that over 1000+ hours of video will make its way onto Live for rental at about $4 a go, or for purchase (at an unstated price).  Some might find it hard to believe Mr Softee would bypass the PC for online movie downloads ,but then again Microsoft did start up with that Xbox Live music video download thing last year and have been doing HD movie trailers since April.  Moreover, they have said that the future of their business is in Services.

If Bill & Co could make the Xbox 360 the premier digital content hub — with or without HD DVD — right underneath Sony’s nose at the eve of their PlayStation 3 launch, it would be quite an achievement.  

iPod Owners “Likely to Switch”to Zune

Who doesn’t love Chocolate? Looks like even iPod owners can’t resist the sweetness of Microsoft’s new player according to a new survey. The poll of American adults and teens, conducted by ABI Research, found that 58 percent of iPod owners were either “somewhat likely” or “extremely likely” to choose Microsoft’s Zune as their next MP3 player, compared with 59 percent for those who own another brand of audio gadget. Only 15 percent of iPod owners chose “not very likely” or “not at all likely” to characterize their Zune-buying interest.What happened to the idea that iPod owners were fanatical about Apple’s player?

“Our conclusion…is that iPod users don’t display the same passionate loyalty to iPods that Macintosh users have historically shown for their Apple products,” said ABI analyst Steve Wilson, suggesting that Apple is going to have to pull some awfully cute product-enhancement bunnies out of the hat next year to retain its market lead.

ABI Research

Cingular Integrates XM into it’s Music Service

cingular_xm.jpgCingular announced it’s Music Service yesterday. Gizmodo covered it and conducted a poll to get reader’s perspective on the value of Sprint & Verizon’s music services. I personally don’t understand why people would pay the overly inflated prices that the carriers charge and apparently, Gizmodo’s readers are in my camp. The results (here) say that only 1.2% of responders use the service frequently or all the time. So what makes Cingular thing their service will be more attractive? How about XM Satellite Radio.

Cingular will also be teaming up with XM satellite radio to offer streaming satellite radio content on mobile phones beginning November 6.  Now that’s cool!  I have a Pioneer Inno portable and I love it, but I hate having to carry multiple devices around. Bear in mind that the Cingular service will be a condensed version of XM (no Fred), for $8.99 per month.  Not sure if you can get a lower rate is part of an XM family plan.  The PAD data will be available on the phone, so users will be able to see what songs they are listening to.

<image via Gizmodo>

Xbox Fall Console Update Requires An Update Of Its Own

According to John Porcaro of the official Microsoft Gamerscoreblog, a small number of Xbox customers (less than 1%) are having issues with their newly installed Fall Console Update.  Gamerscoreblog says they’re going to release an updated version in the next 12-24 hours.

There are also a smattering of reports of a problem getting 1080P resolution to display on SonyXBR1/XBR3 HDTVs.  Apparently, no other brand of HDTV is experiencing the problem. Gizmodo has more details here.  As of this post, the source of the issue has not been isolated.

How’s Tivo Doing….

Over at Gizmodo, Brian L Clark writes an in- depth piece on the fate and fortunes of the video-recorder Tivo. He suggests that Tivo hasn’t been able to maintain its growth and now needs to look to advertisers to ensure that the technology is not consigned to history:

Frankly, TiVo’s 4.5 million subscribers can only take it so far. And the cost of acquiring new subs has increased by nearly 50 percent in the last year. Not good, particularly since the vast majority of its current subscribers came from the recently ended partnership with DirecTV. As a result, analyst Michael Kelman of Susquehanna Financial says TiVo’s best long-term prospects are in advertising. Ah, sweet irony–the service that allowed you to skip ads now needs advertising to survive. All that remains is to convince media buyers TiVo really has found the religion.

Point: How is TiVo Doing After Launching Series 3? – Gizmodo:

 

Social Gaming: Perplex City

Karl Long at ExperienceCurve posted a note about a company called Mind Candy whose chief product is an online game called Perplex City. Seems that the company just received $7 Million in funding, but Karl said the big story was the “multi-media” platform for this game. I had never heard of it, so I checked it out. WOW!

Perplex City is a puzzle-based “Alternate Reality Game”. It’s a virtual place, an ongoing story, a game, and real-life, and a global treasure hunt played simultaneously by tens of thousands of people around the world, all rolled into one. As for the “multi-media”platform; how about podcasts, internet video, TV, live events, websites, text messages, print, blogs, physical “puzzlecards”, a boardgame, and probably some more stuff that I haven’t yet discovered. This thing’s got more channels going that ABC’s “Lost”.

Humans are social by nature so the Social Media phenomenon is a natural outcome of a world flattened by hyper-connectivity. In gaming, I expect we will begin to see more and more of this type of thing displacing disconnected, individual gameplay. It’s only natural. Oh, and the $200K ain’t a bad incentive:-)

DVD Jon, DoubleTwist crack Apple’s FairPlay

Jon Johansen (a.k.a. DVD Jon), the 20-something hacker widely known for helping crack the piracy protections on DVDs several years ago, is taking on Apple Computer again. He has reverse-engineered Apple’s FairPlay, the digital rights management technology used to make iPod and iTunes a closed system.

He has started DoubleTwist Ventures to license the technology which will make other online music stores work with Apple’s iPod device and let iTunes songs play on gadgets other than the iPod.

In an interview with ZDNet, Monique Farantzos, Johansen’s business associate and DoubleTwist co-founder provides details on the company, the technology.  It’s easy to understand why the start-up has been profitable since day one:

When you buy a DVD, you know that the DVD will play on your Toshiba or Sony or Philips player, but when you buy music or video online, you don’t have that. It is kind of like the zoo: Every animal is singing a different tune. We hope to make sense of that, and we have developed a technology to enable that.

No matter how much you wall in your garden, people will find a way to make things simpler.

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