Monday, March 17, 2008

FutureWorld and FutureMarketing at Disney

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone, and I promise this is my last entry about Disney.

Last Friday, I was facinated by the pact that ties Disney World and the global technology company, Siemens AG, with the kind of multifaceted partnership that illustrates how Disney sells itself not just as a theme park, bus also as a marketing venue for all sorts of companies.

Siemens is a German company that generated about 68.6 billion euros (about $102 billion in today's U.S. currency) in sales last year making medical-device, power-grid, information-communication, transportation and automation and control systems, and has more than 6,000 employees in Florida, including those at the company's power headquarters on Alafaya Trail.

Though the company makes almost nothing that the average Disney World visitor might want to buy, Siemens' $100 million, 12-year agreement with Disney World in 2005 gives it naming sponsorship of Epcot's most iconic structure and ride, along with various other business arrangements. Under a new sign reading, "Spaceship Earth Presented by Siemens," the ride and its post-show gauntlet of games are a must-see attraction for kids of all ages.

On the Spaceship Earth ride, visitors might notice just a few new show scenes, lighting, costumes and set decorations and a new narrator, Academy Award-winning actress Judi Dench. The ride vehicle includes an interactive feature that quizzes visitors on such things as their hometown. (BRILLIANT market research forum! How many people come through this ride every single day?!?!? Unreal.) At the end of the ride, visitors are asked "What kind of future is most important to you" Your options are: Work, Play, Family, and something else that I can't remember.

After selecting "Work," Scott and I are asked if we'd rather work in an office, or from home. From home. Do we want to control our own time or have a set schedule? We go through and answer about 8 questions that give Siemens more and more intimate profile information on our work life preferences. At the end, Siemens shows us a 30 second "demo" of how the Scott-and-Wendi world would look... Jetsons-like cartoon characters complete with computer screen glasses that create virtual desktops on which we can wave and point commands and drive applications. Just like "Minority Report."

Once they get off the ride, visitors encounter Siemens' real show, which begins as they enter a high-ceilinged parlor and watch as their pictures (taken on the ride... Now, Siemens' has a visual picture to go with the demographic info which shows race, sex, and general age range) appear on a large globe in the center, then slide over the globe to their hometowns, where they shrink into pinpoints of light that tally who came from where on any given day. The post show also features several areas of educational high-tech games highlighting some of Siemens' technologies, including Inner Vision for medical technologies; Power City, for energy distribution; and Super Driver for transportation.

Along the way, visitors also encounter a few displays showing off some of Siemens' other programs, including its "Generation 21" science-education awards. Disney planners were impressed enough with the games that they took the unusual step of opening entrances directly into the post-show area, so that visitors can skip the ride and get right into the techno-games, if they prefer.

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