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Disney’s New MagicBands: The Fairest Technology of Them All

Source: Disney

It’s like the glass slipper on the foot of a hopeful marketing movement: Disney’s plan to use encoded wristbands to ease access to its bustling parks not only will eliminate the need for turnstiles and cash, it will give Disney a magic mirror into its visitors’ preferences and needs.

The technology, called MyMagic+, involves rubber RFID bracelets (MagicBands) that carry credit card information and other data visitors would use during visits to the park. According to a story in The New York Times, the program is part of a larger plan, estimated to cost anywhere from $800 million to $1 billion, to make trips to Disney less exhausting for its 30 million annual visitors. The logic is that happy customers will spend more money, gladly.

And with the MagicBands, Disney can follow just how that money is being spent, from Mickey Mouse waffles to Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride to, inevitably, a few glasses of wine. As Thomas Staggs, chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts, told the NYT: “If we can enhance the experience, more people will spend more of their leisure time with us.”

More leisure time means more consumer activity for Disney to track, and more information with which to tailor its marketing messages. This may raise concerns among privacy advocates, especially since Disney is primarily a children’s attraction. But the entertainment company said visitors would have the power to control just how much information they share, from their name to whether they want offers sent to their home. Guests aren’t even required to use the MagicBand system.

For those who do, MyMagic+ offers the chance to preselect FastPasses for certain rides, and VIP seating for events such as fireworks or special meetings with Disney characters. The MagicBands work as room key, FastPass, credit card and other uses (though guests will have to enter a PIN when making purchases of more than $50).

I anticipate there still will be some push back among privacy advocates. But progress will march on, and this step by Disney is ambitious and carefully considered. MagicBand embodies many of the qualities that define a good value exchange – one where both the consumer and the brand benefit equally. It promises to enhance the consumer experience by eliminating obstacles to enjoyment, while providing Disney access to highly detailed consumer insights so it can deliver more meaningful experiences. And it empowers customers to choose what information they want to share at various levels.

Granted, this kind of enabling technology is not completely new – Vail Resorts in 2008 officially introduced RFID-enabled ski passes. But Disney, through its attention to privacy and execution, has taken it to a new level.

The next hurdle will be training its 60,000 employees to use the technology. If, afterward, Disney can look in the mirror and say, “This is the fairest deal of all,” then consumers should win, and the whole kingdom might be happy.

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