Being Relevant Matters

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My family and I snuck off to Walt Disney World for a few days last week. You’ve probably noticed I haven’t posted much of late; life, work and general stress had sort of stepped into my pathway and taken over my discretionary time and more importantly, my creativity. I felt like I had little to offer in the way of encouragement, wisdom or advice, so I did the responsible thing and shut up. I needed to get away and recharge my batteries.

Our mini vacation came on the tails of a business conference for me and the two could not have been more perfectly paired. The conference was all about the confection industry: emerging trends in candy, retailer best practices and how to best reach and connect with consumers. The latter, of course, being my real hot button. Industry experts shared insights on technology trends, social media trends, buying/behaviors trends and more; all with a bend toward better understanding and reaching confectionery consumers of all ages.

Freshly charged with new insights on candy and consumerism, and diving head first into a world ripe with both is a head rush! The land of The Mouse is consumption at its best and I felt a giddy sense of excitement as we walked through the turnstiles. Not only was I ready to hit the Rock ‘N Roll roller coaster with my daughter, but I was anxious to check out what’s new in the world of, well, “the world.” Disney’s EPCOT is a great opportunity to experience the best of what each of the participating countries want to showcase from a retail perspective and walking through their various shops and displays is always very educational. New trends for fashion, food, toys, etc., await as you explore each individual country.

But what really blew my mind – literally – was my hour or so spent at Disney’s Imagination Pavilion. And not in a good way, I might add. Disney has always been the place for me to go and push my imagination and “see the future.” I’ve been inspired by Walt’s dream and vision in countless ways over the years, but it seems like they’ve really lost their way on many fronts — and no where is it more visible than in the “ImageWorks: The What-If Labs” attraction.

You enter the attraction after riding the “Journey Into Imagination with Figment” ride. Targeted to very young children, the attraction teaches about the five senses and challenges you to think differently about how to use sight, sounds, colors, etc., to explore the power of imagination. Unfortunately, when you marry the fact that most children of this age live in a completely digital, touch-screen world and the “lab” is a series of (mostly broken) keyboards, trackballs and monitors, what you get are a bunch of very confused preschool and elementary children fiercely pounding on monitors with no response. It was all pretty pathetic.

We saw several instances during our visit where it seemed like Disney was investing heavily in technology, but seemingly in the wrong places. New ticket readers at the entrances – which wouldn’t read the tickets we had just purchased in December – had been installed in most parks, resorts and shops. The process seemingly worked fine two months ago and left me thinking, “why wouldn’t you invest in improving the experience inside first” and leave the current technology at the gates in place. I would think it is more important to want to keep people coming back, than simply getting them inside in the first place. Despite the three-days left on our “never expiring tickets,” we’re not in any hurry to return; I think we’ll finally give Universal Studios a shot at our money.

Being relevant matters today more than ever. I’ve learned that if I cannot offer inspiration, stay silent. Walking Disney for a few days, I realized that the Imagineers, as Disney calls their creative folks, need some inspiration, too. Worn-out, dated attractions; scratched films (vs. digital) and twenty-year old ideas on global topics like energy, imagination and conservation aren’t worth the (ever-increasing) price of admission. This new generation of children can get more excitement and entertainment out of a $0.99 app on an iPad than some attractions can offer…and that’s a big problem.

No matter what you do, where you go or how you choose to build your own outrageous life, make sure you always stay relevant!

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